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At Least 96 Homes Destroyed By Blue Cut Fire in California

80,000 Forced to Abandon Their Homes as California Wildfires Spreads 1:57

Fire officials estimate that 96 homes have been destroyed in a huge Southern California wildfire, while firefighters make more progress containing the blaze.

The so-called Blue Cut Fire started near a freeway exit ramp in San Bernardino County Tuesday and exploded in size, swelling to 37,020 acres — or 57 square miles — by Friday night. More than 200 outbuildings were also destroyed, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, said.

But containment of the fire grew to 40 percent Friday evening, up from 26 percent Friday afternoon, according to Cal Fire. No deaths have been reported but two firefighters were were hurt and briefly hospitalized when they became trapped while defending homes, the San Bernardino Fire Department said.

Image: Blue Cut fire destruction near Los Angeles
The Summit Inn is left severely damaged after the Blue Cut fire, northeast of Los Angeles, California, Aug. 19, 2016. PAUL BUCK / EPA

"The crews are still working to determine that everyone made it out safe and there were no fatalities in this fire," Cal Fire public information officer Daniel Berlant said Friday.

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the Blue Cut fire Friday, and winds were pushing the flames north through the pass, Berlant said.

The fire broke out Tuesday morning near an exit off Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass, which is a major artery from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

At one point more than 82,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders. Some evacuation orders have been lifted by Friday. The highway was closed but was by Thursday it was reopened. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

California is in the fifth year of drought, and dry conditions have exacerbated wildfire conditions. There were six major wildfires burning in the state Friday, Cal Fire said.

In northern California, the Clayton Fire in Lake County has burned nearly 4,000 acres and destroyed at least 175 homes, Cal Fire said. It was 65 percent contained Friday. Investigators have said the cause of the fire was arson. Friday, all evacuation orders issued in Lower Lake were lifted.