The blaze burned to the edge of a number of multimillion-dollar homes that abut rural, picturesque hillsides in the San Fernando Valley. Homes in several communities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties were evacuated, but officials did not release an exact number.
"Our house is still OK, but oh, God, it's not a good feeling,'' said Phil Goldenberg, 53, who was at an evacuation shelter at Canoga Park High School with his wife and son.
Late Wednesday night, bright red flames 10 to 15 feet high stretched several miles across much of the western edge of the valley.
"It's pretty hard to deal with when it's dry brush and dry fuel. There's not a lot you can do to stop it,'' said Paul Shakstad of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Fire officials confirmed that one home had been destroyed, although two structures that appeared to be homes could be seen burning in a news broadcast.
Past wildfires fanned by Santa Ana winds have roared south to Malibu, the celebrity-packed community about 10 miles away, and that's one of the biggest fears firefighters have with this blaze, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Mark Savage said.
Authorities planned an all-out assault against the fire at daybreak using water dropping helicopters and tanker planes, he said. No evacuations were reported at Malibu.
More than 700 firefighters were on the scene, fire spokesman Ron Haralson said earlier. One firefighter was struck on the head by a 40-pound boulder and was taken to a hospital, officials said.
The fire was only 5 percent contained early Thursday, authorities said.
A blaze in Riverside County, meanwhile, spread over 1,330 acres between the cities of Redlands and Moreno Valley, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles. That fire destroyed three chicken coops at a ranch believed to have housed 70,000 to 90,000 chickens.
So far this year, wildfires have charred 8.16 million acres nationwide, compared with 7.74 million acres at the same time last year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
09-29-05 09:30 EDT