Fires threatened a wildlife sanctuary and burned closer to a grove of centuries-old giant sequoia trees Monday as three major blazes burned in California's heartland and near home-studded mountain ridges surrounding Los Angeles.
The fires fanned by 30 mph gusts erupted during the weekend as an autumn heat wave blasted California with temperatures near 100 degrees in some areas.Flames burned through more than 4,000 acres by Monday morning in the three large blazes and two smaller blazes. The largest fire, a 2,000-plus acre blaze in the Angeles National Forest, challenged firefighters trying to protect homes about 30 miles north of Los Angeles.
"We'll either catch it, or we'll chase it," said Los Angeles County firefighter Stan Pearson. "It's burning some areas that haven't burned in a real long, long time."
The fire, raging through Placerita Canyon north of Sylmar, sent a plume of smoke 7,000 feet high, and two firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze, authorities said. The smoke was visible 50 miles away at Los Angeles International Airport and at Dodger Stadium during Sunday's Game 2 of the World Series.
The fire moved closer through the night to homes on the northeast rim of the San Fernando Valley, but no evacuations were ordered, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kim Vanderhaar said. "They can look out their back yards and see the fire," she said.
Flames pushing to within a mile of the Wildlife Way Station worried workers at the non-profit refuge for more than 1,000 wild animals, said spokeswoman Martine Colette, adding it was an unusally quiet night at the compound.
"The lions stopped roaring and the coyotes stopped howling. They can smell the fire and they are extremely quiet because of it," she said. A dozen water tankers surrounded the facility at dawn.
"We will have to make our stand here. It would not be feasible to evacuate the animals," she said.
More than 500 firefighters worked through the night to turn the blaze as it burned dry brush in highly inaccessible mountainous terrain, Pearson said.
Swirling winds sent flames in three different directions, compounding the effort, he said.