Nick Ut  /  AP
Flames from a wildfire burn near the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles on Wednesday. The blaze hopscotched along the 118 Freeway and threatened homes in the densely wooded Box and Bell canyons.
updated 9/29/2005 12:49:22 PM ET 2005-09-29T16:49:22

A wind-whipped brush fire quickly doubled in size Thursday to at least 7,000 acres, destroying at least one home and prompting evacuations as flames rose along a ridge for miles.

Helicopters began dropping water on the flames at daybreak as the fire threatened canyon homes in the San Fernando Valley, at Los Angeles’ westernmost edge, and crept west toward dwellings near Thousand Oaks in Ventura County.

A steady stream of ash fell and orange flames illuminated the pre-dawn skies just west of the Chatsworth community, and the stench of smoke enveloped the area.

More than 1,000 firefighters battled the blaze, Los Angeles Fire Capt. Mark Savage said.

They expected a tough day Thursday, with low humidity, triple-digit temperatures and brisk winds, combined with the area’s dry brush.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” Savage said.

The blaze, which was 5 percent contained, consumed a home and a detached garage and was threatening countless others, officials said.

Shelters were opened in Los Angeles and Ventura County.

Evacuees waiting it out
About 45 evacuees gathered at Canoga Park High School in the San Fernando Valley, where the Red Cross had set up cots and provided meals.

“Our house is still OK, but oh, God, it’s not a good feeling,” said Phil Goldenberg, 53, who was at the school’s gym with his wife and son.

Past wildfires fanned by Santa Ana winds have roared south to Malibu, the celebrity-packed community about 10 miles away, and firefighters feared a repeat with this blaze.

One firefighter was struck on the head by a 40-pound boulder and was taken to a hospital, officials said.

Firefighters did not know how the blaze began.

A blaze in Riverside County, meanwhile, spread over 1,160 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 house 70,000 to 90,000 chickens.

So far this year, wildfires have charred 8.16 million acres nationwide, compared with 7.74 million acres by the same time last year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

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