Firefighters try to contain California fire, thousands evacuated

Hundreds of firefighters backed by helicopters, water-dumping planes and trucks working to put out the blaze.

    More than 1,300 firefighters are battling a blaze burning out of control in southern California, threatening thousands of people and homes in Los Angeles.

    Thousands of people were under evacuation orders on Sunday after the so-called Apple Fire in the mountains east of Los Angeles exploded in size.

    The fire that broke out on Friday near the city of San Bernardino has so far charred more than 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) of land, sending up columns of smoke that could be seen from far away.

    It was so smoky that authorities declared an air quality alert on Saturday evening.

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    The blaze in Riverside County consumed more than 80 square kilometres (31 square miles) of dry brush and timber, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

    At least 2,600 homes and nearly 7,800 people were evacuated, Riverside County fire department said. Officials said it was not clear when they might be able to come back.

    Photographs the fire department shared on Twitter on Saturday showed thick plumes of smoke filling the sky over the mountainous region.

    Out of control

    Just before midday on Sunday, some 1,360 firefighters backed by helicopters, water-dumping planes and trucks were working to put out the fire.

    Flames ran along brushy ridge tops, coming close to homes as firefighters attacked them from the ground and air.

    There were no reports of casualties, and the only damage so far has been to two buildings and one home.

    The edges of the fire are burning on rugged hills hard for crews to reach, authorities said.

    Dense vegetation fuelled the fires near homes, said Fernando Herrera, fire chief in Riverside County, while hot and dry conditions on Sunday stoked the fire.

    Officials said it might have been set deliberately and a probe into what caused the fire is under way.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies