Nightly News   |  January 16, 2014

Out-of-Control Fire Threatens California Homes

Southern California firefighters are facing an intense, quickly spreading blaze during the middle of a statewide drought.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> up suddenly and out of nowhere, they were not unexpected. southern california has been under a red flag warning , meaning hot, dry and windy, and favorable wildfire conditions. and tonight they're in the middle of an all-out fight there. the picture from space shows the smoke plume where the winds blow to the west, down the dry hill sides, away from the land, out over the water. 3700 homes are under evacuation warnings and over 17 hundred acres have burned including homes, and several 100 firefighters are on the job tonight. it is where we begin tonight, miguel almaguer has more, good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening, police say the three men taken into custody started an illegal camp fire . at least four people have been injured. we know at least two homes have been completely destroyed. you may be able to see the smoke rising over my shoulder. that is because this fire is zero percent contained. while the calendar may read winter, for the crews on the ground it is looking a lot like summer. explosive and out of control. the so-called colby fire sweeping towards canyons and neighborhoods with million dollar homes.

>> it is really spreading very, very quickly.

>> reporter: flames quickly engulfed the suburbs in east l.a. , residents scrambling to get out of the way. some 5,000 people ordered to evacuate with no time to pack.

>> it just all happened so fast, went so quick. it was like get out.

>> reporter: ron galloway lived at the historic mansion, part of the famous area owned by the sewing company, eaten up by flames.

>> it only happened in a few minutes. it was everywhere, all around us.

>> reporter: with fire jumping through neighborhoods, palm trees turned to blow torches. the sky? a dark eerie glow, and schools were closed, clogging freeways. the terrain couldn't be more difficult to battle. the flames literally dropped into the back yards of hundreds of homes. this man was woken by flames out his window. what is it like to watch this?

>> it is scary, our back yard.

>> reporter: firefighters were ready, with strike teams in position before the blaze because conditions were ripe for fire.

>> because of our preparation, we were able to save hundreds if not thousands of homes this evening.

>> reporter: but tonight, the forecast calls for 40 miles an hour