Image: Socal Fires
A palm tree, right, burns as a firefighter attempts to save a home in Reche Canyon, Riverside County, late Tuesday.
updated 10/22/2003 5:55:36 AM ET 2003-10-22T09:55:36

Record temperatures helped fuel four wildfires that by early Wednesday had consumed more than 4,000 acres in Southern California, including one fast-moving arson blaze that destroyed six homes in the Reche Canyon area of Riverside County, officials said.

THE HOT WEATHER also stoked fires in Fontana, Camp Pendleton and the hills above Burbank.

The blaze in Reche Canyon was reported Tuesday afternoon and by early Wednesday had burned at least 1,000 acres, said Becky Luther, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.

The fire destroyed six homes and investigators determined that it was intentionally set, Luther said. It was threatening about 100 homes, said CDF Capt. Rick Vogt. The blaze was 10 percent contained, he said.

Mark Josephson fought alongside firefighters as the fire threatened his home.

“Flames came within a foot of the house,” he said. “We didn’t lose anything.”

Josephson said friends and family members teamed with firefighters to save his property, including storage sheds, 12 horses, a goat and several sheep. The rural enclave was filled with the sound of frightened horses that could be heard neighing above the din of helicopters.

Evacuations were ordered and about a dozen residents sought shelter overnight at a nearby high school, Vogt said. More than 530 firefighters were battling the blaze and one firefighter suffered from smoke inhalation. There were no other injuries, Vogt said.

Southern California has experienced record, triple-digit temperatures in recent days and the warm weather is expected to continue for the next few days. A high of 95 was forecast Wednesday in Riverside.

To the northeast, another wildfire scorched 2,000 acres at the far north end of Fontana in San Bernardino County. The blaze, which was burning up a slope and away from homes, was under investigation, said Bill Peters, a CDF spokesman.

In the hills above Burbank, a suspicious wildfire burned about 100 acres, said Dave Starr, spokesman for the Burbank Fire Department. Fire officials expected to have the blaze contained Wednesday.

A brush fire at Camp Pendleton burned more than 1,000 acres in an uninhabited area used for training exercises at the Marine base. Authorities said the blaze was apparently sparked by some kind of ammunition.

Southern California has experienced triple digit temperatures in recent days as record highs were set across the region. Warm temperatures are expected to continue over the next few days.

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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