Firefighters beat back flames licking at ocean-view estates Friday, while another wildfire raged through a dry forest above Los Angeles' foothill suburbs.
The dramatic success of an overnight air and ground battle against a swift-moving blaze on the Palos Verdes Peninsula was tempered by the threat from an out-of-control fire on the opposite side of Los Angeles in the steep San Gabriel Mountains above the city of La Canada Flintridge.
The 2.3-square-mile fire in Angeles National Forest was among the most dangerous in a siege of wildfires charring thousands of acres of brush from Southern California north to the central coast region and east to the Sierra Nevada. Triple-digit heat and very low humidity made many areas ripe for burning.
Ash fell from the sky and huge billows of smoke rose from the mountains as Elias Yidonoy, 62, and his wife prepared to leave their La Canada Flintridge home. Their minivan was loaded with suitcases filled with clothing, documents and photographs.
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“It's wait and see,” said Yidonoy, who with his wife had also left their home for several hours overnight and then returned.
The foothill residents were among more than a thousand Californians chased from their homes by the threat of wildfires.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula fire roared to life on the south Los Angeles County coast Thursday night and spread rapidly up canyons in the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. As many as 1,500 people fled as hundreds of firefighters rushed to protect homes in the fire's path in adjacent Rolling Hills Estates.
Calm, windless conditions allowed water-dropping helicopters with spotlights to work much of the night. Six homes received minor exterior damage, and the only structures destroyed were an outbuilding and gazebo. No injuries were reported.
After daybreak, no flames were showing and all evacuations were lifted, but officials warned that fire could still surge out of the uncontained area.
Elsewhere in the Angeles National Forest, more than 1,600 firefighters working in 102-degree heat had achieved 60 percent containment of a 3.1-square-mile blaze in a canyon above the city of Azusa.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday in Los Angeles and Monterey counties.
“It's fire season, clearly,” he said. “There's tremendous amount of heat all over the state.”