California brushfire after car crash forces hundreds from homes

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A car crash that downed power lines turned the hills northwest of Los Angeles into torches. (WPVI)

A car crash that downed power lines turned the hills northwest of Los Angeles into torches, forcing hundreds from their homes and putting entire neighborhoods at risk in this prosperous semi-rural enclave.

Fifty-foot-high flames erupted on the ridges and embers turned trees into candles Saturday afternoon and while the flames eased overnight, some 200 homes and perhaps 500 people remained under mandatory evacuation orders early Sunday.

The fire flared as Southern California sweltered under temperatures that hit the mid-90s in many places. Sunday's high in Calabasas was expected to be around 86.

At its height, the flames put about 3,000 homes at risk, although not under imminent threat, fire officials said.

"We're dealing with a fire that's moving in every direction simultaneously...we can't get to everybody," Battalion Chief Dennis Cross told KNBC-TV.

Three homes were damaged but the extent of the damage wasn't clear, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Keith Mora said. Some other buildings, including some at a city park, also were damaged.

The fire started as three blazes that erupted after a car hit a power pole and knocked down electrical lines, authorities said. One fire in the West Hills area of Los Angeles was quickly doused but other blazes in Calabasas joined and raced through drought-dry brush in hills surrounded by developments.

The blaze grew to 200 acres in a matter of hours. Embers ignited trees and clumps of brush within yards of million-dollar homes.

The smoke could be seen for miles.

Some horse-owners in the area put the animals in trailers and hauled them away.

Authorities set up an evacuation center for people with large animals at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.

Around 200 firefighters, aided by bulldozers and water-dropping helicopters, had the blaze 15 percent contained by late Saturday night.

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