LOS ANGELES (Dispatches) — A wildfire raged out of control along the northern edge of Los Angeles early Friday, forcing thousands of people from their homes as firefighters battled flames from the air and on the ground.
Police Chief Michel Moore ordered mandatory evacuations of 100,000 people in over 20,000 homes.
Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said the fire had grown to more than 7 square miles (18 square kilometers) and at least 25 homes had been damaged.
The blaze erupted around 9 p.m. Thursday along the northern tier of the San Fernando Valley as powerful Santa Ana winds swept into Southern California.
Terrazas said there were sustained winds of 20-25 mph (32-40 kph) with gusts over 50 mph (80 kph) and relative humidity levels had fallen as low as 3%.
"As you can imagine the embers from the wind have been traveling a significant distance which causes another fire to start," Terrazas said.
Helicopters made repeated water drops as crews on the ground attacked flames in and around homes. Water- and retardant-dropping airplanes joined the battle after daybreak. About 1,000 firefighters were on the lines.
Evacuations were also still in effect in the inland region east of Los Angeles where a fire erupted Thursday and raged through a mobile home park in the Calimesa area of Riverside County.
Seventy-four buildings were destroyed, others were damaged and Riverside County authorities were trying to determine if anyone was missing.
One person who couldn't be immediately located was Don Turner's 89-year-old mother.
Fire danger is high throughout Southern California after the typically dry summer and early fall, and the notorious Santa Ana winds — linked to the spread of many wildfires — bring a dangerous mix of witheringly low humidity levels and powerful gusts.
More than a million Californians were without electricity due to pre-emptive blackouts Thursday.
Some 600,000 customers in northern California were in the dark after Pacific Gas & Electric began switching off power the previous day, in a bid to prevent a repeat of last year's catastrophic inferno which killed 86 people.
With high-risk "red flag" winds spreading to the Los Angeles area further south, around 13,000 customers of Southern California Edison also had their electricity cut Thursday.
Schools and universities closed and people have been stocking up on gasoline, water, batteries and other basics, with frustration mounting at blackouts condemned by some as "third world."
PG&E on Thursday had completed inspections on some power lines in its blackout regions, and had restored electricity to 137,000 customers by Thursday afternoon.
But others may have to wait several days for inspections before normal service can be restored.
Last November, PG&E's faulty power lines were determined to have sparked the deadliest wildfire in the state's modern history, which killed 86 and destroyed the town of Paradise.
Outdated facilities and failure to deforest land surrounding high-voltage transmission lines were blamed for the inferno, causing PG&E to go bankrupt in January.
The cost of 48 hours of power cuts could reach $2.6 billion, Michael Wara, an expert in energy and climate policy at Stanford University, told CNN.