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New fire forces evacuations outside Los Angeles

Separate California blaze grows to nearly 16,000 acres


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A wildfire spreads destruction near Carson City, Nevada.
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A wildfire that started burning Saturday in the Santa Clarita foothills northwest of Los Angeles forced the evacuation of more than 100 homes and the closure of several highways, officials said.

More than 750 firefighters and others were fighting the blaze fanned by 20 mph winds that had burned 2,500 acres in the Sand Canyon area and in Placerita Canyon outside Los Angeles.

The Placerita Canyon Nature Center, College of the Canyons at Rockwell and the McBean area of Santa Clarita were threatened by the fire, said Ron Haralson, inspector for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The fire was reported just before noon, and was only 10 percent contained by evening. Parts of several highways were closed, including the northbound lanes of State Highway 14 between Interstate 5 and Placerita Canyon, south of Santa Clarita.

The cause of the blaze is unknown.

Another fire burned 2,000 acres near Hemet, southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County.

Capt. Rick Vogt of the California Department of Forestry said 2,000 people in 500 homes were evacuated. According to a recorded message from the county, no structures had been destroyed. The fire was burning eastward.

The fires are the latest in a series of blazes that have scorched California and Nevada this week. More than a dozen wildfires are burning in California alone.

Erratic winds are pushing the fires over tinder-dry brush in areas that are under drought conditions.

California's Pine fire has swelled to nearly 16,000 acres as it sweeps through Angeles National Forest. The fire has forced more than 1,000 people from their homes in Lake Hughes, about 30 miles north of Los Angeles, since it started Monday.

It has consumed three houses and seven other structures. More than 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze.

A traffic accident killed one firefighter as he left the fire line. Three other people have been injured, officials said.

The flames jumped three fire lines in three days, and authorities feared winds would push the blaze over a ridge into the cities of Lake Hughes and Elizabeth Lake. They also feared the fire would burn crucial habitats for the California condor and the spotted owl.

But Saturday, winds gusting to 15 miles per hour pushed the flames away from the communities and wildlife habitats.

Meanwhile, a fire on the outskirts of Nevada's capital has burned 7,566 acres since it began Wednesday, fire officials said. The fire is about 50 percent contained.

More than 1,900 firefighters worked on the ground to stop the flames' spread, while aircraft attacked them from above.

Firefighters began the air assault after winds, which had gusted to 40 mph Thursday, calmed Friday morning.

Fire officials said the wind shifted late Friday afternoon and overnight, pushing the fire back into itself and areas it had already burned.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn said the winds made the fire the "meanest, ugliest, [most] uncooperative" fire in a long time.

Flames as high as 100 feet incinerated 20 homes and 26 other buildings in Carson City. Firefighters used foam and water to save dozens more.

Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders to residents of 1,000 threatened homes.

"We're telling the public, 'Let us do our job. ... Stay away from it if you don't have to be there,'" interagency fire spokesman Kirk Frosdick said.

Carson City asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for money to clean up the area once the flames are extinguished, Guinn said.

Five people -- four of them firefighters -- have been injured in Nevada, but none seriously, authorities said.

The cause of the fire is being investigated. Authorities want to question teenagers who had a party in the area before the fire broke out.

CNN's Miguel Marquez in Lake Hughes and Ted Rowlands in Carson City contributed to this report.


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