Southern California fire mushrooms, residents evacuated

Officials have ordered residents in the path of a fast-moving wildfire north of Los Angeles to evacuate, as firefighters battle to contain the blaze.
Flames can be seen closing in on homes, near Santa Clarita, California, on July 23, 2016.
Flames can be seen closing in on homes, near Santa Clarita, California, on July 23, 2016.PHOTO: AFP
A firefighter hosing down flames near Santa Clarita, California, on July 23, 2016.
A firefighter hosing down flames near Santa Clarita, California, on July 23, 2016.PHOTO: AFP
Residents fleeing from their homes as flames from the Sand Fire close in, near Santa Clarita, California, on July 23, 2016.
Residents fleeing from their homes as flames from the Sand Fire close in, near Santa Clarita, California, on July 23, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A fire burning out of control in Southern California has grown to a massive 8,000ha, officials said on Sunday (July 24), as residents in an area north of Los Angeles were forced to evacuate.

The blaze, which has been dubbed the "Sand Fire" after a nearby neighbourhood, is only 10 per cent contained, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG).

Local media reported that a burned body had been recovered in the city of Santa Clarita, located some 55km from downtown Los Angeles, although it was unclear if the individual had died in the blaze.

The fire has been burning in California's Santa Clarita Valley since Friday, but has now shifted to threaten more populated areas such as the Sand Canyon neighbourhood of Santa Clarita, county fire officials said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At least 1,500 homes are threatened, the Times reported.

Orange flames could be seen lapping at the night sky early on Sunday, as a number of roads remained closed and health officials warned of poor air quality and hazardous smoke.

More than 900 firefighters are battling the blaze and residents have been evacuated, NWCG reported.

It added that structures had been destroyed or damaged although it was unable to confirm specific properties.

Local media reported that ash and smoke could be seen as far away as Pasadena and Malibu.

California is experiencing a record five-year drought and trees and brush are at risk of igniting from the smallest spark.