Winds have intensified a wildfire burning for nearly two weeks in mountains northeast of Los Angeles, prompting authorities to issue new evacuation orders Saturday for desert communities that lost some homes a day earlier.
Already an investigation is going on to ascertain the death of a firefighter on the lines of another Southern California wildfire that erupted earlier this month from a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender.
The death occurred Thursday in San Bernardino National Forest as crews battled the El Dorado Fire about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.
Firefighters in northern Los Angeles County, were focusing on protecting homes Saturday as increasingly erratic winds pushed the Bobcat Fire toward foothill communities in the Antelope Valley after churning all the way across the San Gabriel Mountains. An evacuation order was issued Saturday for all residents in that zone as the fire burned toward Wrightwood, a mountain community of 4,000, said fire spokesman Andrew Mitchell.
The massive fire grew to 142 square miles (368 square kilometers) on Saturday when winds pushed the flames into Juniper Hills.
Some residents fled as blowing embers sparked spot fires, hitting some homes but sparing others. Bridget Lensing feared her family’s house was lost on Friday after seeing on Twitter that a neighbor’s house three doors down went up in flames.
The house stood when she made her way back Saturday afternoon but her neighbors’ houses in the remote community were burned to the ground.
“Everything around us is gone,” she said.
The extent of the destruction in the area about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of downtown LA wasn’t immediately clear. But, Los Angeles County park officials said the blaze destroyed the nature center at Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area, a geological wonder that attracts some 130,000 visitors per year.