LOS ANGELES — A wind-driven fire has destroyed several homes Thursday afternoon and is threatening many more in a mobile home community in Riverside County.
The Sandalwood fire began just before 2 p.m. in Calimesa and quickly engulfed a nearby home, which produced plumes of thick black smoke and firebrands that spread the fire to its neighbors.
The fire has grown to more than 500 acres and was 0% contained as of 4 p.m., Riverside County fire officials said. Nearby residents were ordered to evacuate the area.
“Several structures” were destroyed but an official tally was not immediately available, said county fire spokesman Rob Roseen.
The fire started during red-flag conditions — a dangerous mix of strong winds, warm temperatures and bone-dry air — that have engulfed much of the state this week.
Those conditions triggered unprecedented action from the state’s biggest utilities — precautionary blackouts in the most risky areas — to avoid sparking the types of fires that began in Calimesa.
Southern California Edison cut power to nearly 13,000 customers in parts of San Bernardino, Ventura, Kern and Los Angeles counties Thursday as firefighters battled the Sandalwood fire and other growing blazes fueled by strong Santa Ana winds.
One fire damaged two homes in Fontana.
Another in Moreno Valley off Reche Canyon Road burned more than 100 acres. Another fire was burning near the interchange of the 210 and 15 freeways in Fontana.
Southern California Edison said 12,900 customers were affected in communities across the region, including Palmdale, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, San Bernardino, Fillmore and Simi Valley.
The first round of outages began Thursday morning with fewer than 5,000 customers without electricity. That number had more than doubled by noon as winds picked up across the state.
Santa Ana winds gusting up to 55 mph in the valleys and up to 70 mph in the mountains along with low humidity prompted the National Weather Service on Thursday to issue a red-flag warning for large swaths of Southern California. Forecasters say strong winds are expected to affect Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties through Friday afternoon. Humidity will range from 3% to 10%.
In response, Southern California Edison said power could ultimately be cut off to more than 173,000 customers in parts of nine counties to lower the risk of windblown electrical lines causing a fire. The high winds and dry weather create ideal fire conditions, authorities warn, with the potential to transform a spark into a raging inferno.
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