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Southern California wildfire prompts evacuation order for thousands as Santa Ana winds fuel flames

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The so-called Highland Fire broke out around 12:45 p.m. in dry, brushy hills near the unincorporated hamlet of Aguanga in Riverside County.

As of Monday evening, it covered about 5 square kilometers of land, said fire spokesman Jeff LaRusso.

About 1,300 homes and 4,000 residents were under evacuation orders, he said.

The fire destroyed three buildings and damaged six others, but it was unclear whether they were homes. The area is sparsely populated but there are horse ranches and a large mobile home site, LaRusso said.

No injuries were reported.

Winds of 20 to 25 miles per hour (32 to 40 km/h) with higher gusts pushed the flames and embers through grass and brush that had been dried by recent winds and low humidity, so that it was “almost like kindling” for the fire. » said LaRusso.

Winds are expected to ease somewhat overnight and fire crews will attempt to contain the fire, LaRusso said.

But he added: “The wind conquers everything. Let’s hope the forecast holds.

A large air tanker, bulldozers and other resources were called in to fight the blaze, one of the few large, active fires to break out so far during the year-long fire season. ‘year in California, LaRusso said.

Southern California was experiencing its first significant wind condition in Santa Ana. Strong, hot, dry, dust-bearing winds typically descend toward the Pacific coast from inland desert regions during the fall. They fueled some of the largest and most devastating fires in recent California history.

The National Weather Service said Riverside County could see winds of 15 to 25 mph (24 to 40 kph) through Tuesday with gusts up to 40 miles per hour (64 kph). The weather service has issued a red flag warning of extreme fire danger through Tuesday afternoon for parts of Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

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