A wildfire in a rural area southeast of Los Angeles has forced the evacuation of thousands of people and burned more than 2,400 acres as of Tuesday night, local officials said.
The Highland Fire started early Monday afternoon in Aguanga, a community in unincorporated Riverside County, which starts east of Los Angeles and includes part of Joshua Tree National Park. Three structures were destroyed and six others were damaged Tuesday night, the Riverside County Fire Department said the update said.
The ministry said the fire threatened more than 2,300 other buildings and was likely to take about a week to be fully contained. It said the risk through Thursday night was that easterly winds could continue to push the fire to the west and southwest, toward communities along California’s Pacific coast.
The fire broke out in dry, brushy hills, and evacuation orders affected nearly 4,000 people and 1,139 homes, said Jeff LaRusso, a fire department spokesman. Investigation into the cause of the fire.
Another 500 houses were below evacuation warnings on Tuesday, Mr. LaRusso added, one step ahead of the evacuation order, meaning residents should consider leaving.
Residents posted videos and photos of strong winds and smoke on social media, warning that the fire was spreading quickly. Winds and low humidity are the main factors driving the fire, LaRusso said.
National Weather Service issued an air quality warning for the region until Thursday morning due to wildfire smoke.
More than 1,100 emergency workers have responded to the blaze since Tuesday night, and the fire department said firefighting planes were trying to extinguish it from above.
Maggie Cline De La Rosa, spokeswoman for the Riverside County Fire Department, said in one update on social media on Tuesday that those responding to the fire had adequate resources, including additional aircraft that were expected to arrive later.
“Please stay alert,” she said. “We have a lot of firefighters on the ground doing their best to fight this fire.”
One firefighter was injured overnight and was taken to a hospital, where he was reported to be in stable condition, Ms. Cline De La Rosa said by email. There were no reports of injured civilians, she said.
The first firefighters to arrive at the scene encountered a “fire burning at a moderate rate of spread,” according to the fire department, and it has since intensified. The rapid spread of the fire was aided by the Santa Ana winds, dry, warm winds that come from the desert and are common during the colder months of the year.
“These strong winds can cause extensive property damage,” the weather service said. “They also increase the risk of wildfires because of the dryness of the winds and the speed at which they can spread flames across the landscape.”
Jesus Jiménez and Mike Ives contributed to the reporting.