Photos: Wildfires blaze

loading photos...
  1. A DC-10 jumbo jet tanker drops retardant on top of the crest of Hauser Peak to protect microwave towers in Palmadale, Calif., from a wildfire on Friday, July 30. A huge wildfire churned through high desert wilderness north of Los Angeles, destroying a few buildings and forcing people from about 2,000 homes. Most of the displaced residents were allowed to return as the threat eased. (Damian Dovarganes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Firefighters and sheriff deputies retreat quickly as flames approach Elizabeth Lake Road in Leona Valley as a fast moving wildfire nears Palmdale on Thursday. (Dan Steinberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Fire rages behind the Lazy T Ranch on Elizabeth Lake Road west of Palmdale Calif. on Thursday. About 2,000 homes in the community of Leona Valley and parts of Palmdale areas were under evacuation Friday, according to Los Angeles County Fire. (Dave Mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A U.S. Forest Service firefighter sets an intentional backfire to keep flames away from homes in Leona Valley, just west of Palmdale. (Mike Meadows / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A firefighter looks on as a fast moving wildfire approaches Elizabeth Lake Road in the Leona Valley near Palmdale on Thursday. (Dan Steinberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Engine companies line up along Lake Elizabeth Road at dusk Thursday. The fire, one of two major fires to break out in the same area, has roared through at least a thousand acres. (Mike Meadows / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Fire personnel inspect the remains of a house destroyed by wild fires in Kern County, California, on Wednesday, July 28. Two wildfires have burned dozens of homes and forced more than 2,000 people to evacuate mountain communities on the edge of the Mojave Desert and in the southern Sierra Nevada. (Mike Meadows / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A vehicle and structures destroyed by wild fires in Kern County, California, on Wednesday, July 28. (Mike Meadows / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A helicopter drops water on the wildfire at Old West Ranch where residents were evacuated and about 30 to 40 homes were lost near Tehachapi, Calif., Wednesday, July 28. (Alex Gallardo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A house burns on Tuesday, July 27, near Tehachapi, Calif. Over 40 homes were destroyed in the Old West Ranch fire on Tuesday. (Sean Work / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. An inmate crew marches to the fire at Old West Ranch near Tehachapi, Calif., Wednesday, July 28. (Alex Gallardo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Fires rage in Kern County, Calif., on Tuesday, July 27, on the edge of the Mojave Desert. (Mike Meadows / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A house burns on Tuesday, July 27, near Tehachapi, Calif. Over 40 homes were destroyed in the Old West Ranch fire. (Dave Mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A mule deer and her fawn make their way through a burnt out canyon at the Old West Ranch were residents were evacuated and about 30 to 40 homes have been lost to a wildfire near Tehachapi, Calif., Wednesday, July 28. (Alex Gallardo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A huge column of smoke from the Old West Ranch fire can be seen from the highway near Tehachapi, Calif., Tuesday, July 27. (Mike Meadows / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

updated 7/31/2010 8:47:47 AM ET 2010-07-31T12:47:47

Firefighters were battling a huge wildfire in the high desert wilderness north of Los Angeles Saturday, after it jumped an aqueduct and rushed toward hundreds of houses.

About 2,300 structures were threatened and there was also concern for power lines that bring electricity to Southern California.

While house evacuation orders were lifted Friday, residents of about 500 homes in Rancho Vista were told to "shelter in place" until further notice so that roads remain clear for the movement of fire equipment, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Two giant airtankers swooped into the Antelope Valley to drop red flame retardant around the perimeter, while helicopters hovered over the aqueduct to suck up water and release it quickly on top of the smoldering hotspots.

"They make a big difference but it's a coordinated aggressive attack with firefighters laying hose, doing structure protection and perimeter control," said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Frederic Stowers.

"It's a tough situation but we're steadily taking chunks out of this fire, protecting the infrastructure — power lines, roads and the like," he added.

Stowers said 1,700 personnel worked in high heat to outflank the blaze and build containment lines around 20 percent of the fire.

"We are deploying everything that we've got," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said at the fire command post Friday.

Fire officials expect low humidity and high temperatures again Saturday with winds gusts of up to 50 mph in the foothills in the evening.

One house and three mobile home residences were destroyed, another house had roof damage and various other outbuildings and garages were lost in the horse country region, authorities said.

Most of the homes closer to Palmdale, however, are of recent construction with fire resistant roofs, stucco walls, boxed eaves and landscaped with fire-resistant vegetation, fire officials said.

'Really scary'
Destiny Brown, 19, stood beside her family's tan Ford Taurus waiting for her mother and sisters to finish packing so they could leave their home in a smoke-clogged Delta Ridge subdivision on the outskirts of Palmdale.

"I never thought it would happen. I only thought it's on TV. It's really scary," the 19-year-old said of the flames that burned just out of sight.

When their home filled with smoke, the family decided it was time to go. Brown said she was especially concerned about her 10-month-old brother who has asthma.

In the adjacent Amber Ridge subdivision, Barbara Murphy, 62, said she decided to stay put even though she and other residents in the development had lost power.

She said she felt secure in the center of the subdivision and had come through several fires unscathed during her decades living in the Antelope Valley.

"I've lived here for 43 years and I've never left the scene of a fire," she said.

Maria Norton, 19, expected to be home Friday evening preparing for Saturday's Miss Antelope Valley pageant.

Instead, this year's Miss Leona Valley is in a motel, worrying about the health of her horse, Sally, after fire destroyed her family's stable.

"It's kind of all a big nightmare," Norton said.

The college sophomore packed her purple pageant dress and fled her family's home in a sparsely populated area Thursday after freeing Sally just before flames engulfed the barn.

Sheriff's deputies urged the family to flee before Sally could be loaded into a trailer and hauled away to safety.

Overnight, Norton learned that animal rescuers had taken Sally to local fairgrounds where large animals were being sheltered during the fire.

When Norton went to visit Sally on Friday afternoon, the horse wasn't doing well.

"She's very sluggish. Not upbeat," she said. "It's taking a toll on her."

Workers probed
Deputy Fire Chief Michael Bryant said an investigation into the cause of the fire is centering on workers who were hammering on some bolts to remove a tire rim. The workers were cooperating with the investigation. The blaze spread rapidly after breaking out at midafternoon Thursday.

Southern California Edison said Friday the fire was threatening five high-voltage transmission lines, but the California grid operator had put additional generation resources online and customers were not expected to be affected if the utility lost those lines.

Only 21 SCE customers in the fire area were without power.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power asked its customers to reduce electrical usage until the threat eased, but added that it had begun local generation and its system was functioning normally.

Elsewhere, good weather in neighboring Kern County helped firefighters build containment lines around two wildfires that destroyed homes in remote mountain communities earlier in the week.

To the north, a fire that destroyed eight residences and a few outbuildings as it spread across about 26 square miles of the Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada was 55 percent contained, authorities said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Fires force evacuations in California, Russia

  1. Transcript of: Fires force evacuations in California, Russia

    ANN CURRY, anchor: Also in the news tonight, 2,000 homes were evacuated today as a big, fast-moving wildfire spread in the desert just north of Los Angeles . Fire crews brought out the big guns, a DC-10 jumbo tanker that can drop 12,000 gallons of fire retardant. But the weather isn't helping matters. Ninety-eight -degree temperatures and gusty winds have been feeding flames that have reached up to 50 feet high.

    ANN CURRY, anchor: And overseas, raging forest fires around several cities in Russia have now destroyed more than a thousand homes, and at least 25 people have been killed.

    ANN CURRY, anchor: In Pakistan , the problem is water, too much of it. The worst flooding in decades in northwest Pakistan has killed more than 400 people. When

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments