PHELAN: An inferno scorching swathes of southern California threatened the homes of more than 82,000 people, sending flaming "firenadoes" tearing across the brush and prompting a state of emergency.
More than 1,300 firefighters were battling the giant blaze, with more on the way, but they were unable to contain the blaze on Wednesday.
Dramatic local TV news footage of the wildfire captured from the front line in the town of Phelan showed tornado-like flaming vortexes -- known as "firenadoes" -- sent spinning into the air by the unusual ferocity of the blaze. "We have very, very dry brush, thick fuel, it helps move it along very quickly," Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for the state firefighting agency Cal Fire, told AFP.
"It is very dangerous to the public and also to the firefighters."
Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County, just 100 kilometers east of Los Angeles, where the so-called Bluecut Fire was quickly growing, its cause still unclear.
The inferno began around 10:30 AM Tuesday and has already burned through 30,000 acres (more than 12,000 hectares), according to the multi-agency Inciweb information site.
More than 34,500 homes were threatened and 82,640 people were under evacuation warnings.
"There is imminent threat to public safety, rail traffic and structures in the Cajon Pass, Lytle Creek, Wrightwood, Oak Hills and surrounding areas," Inciweb said.
From the highway between Wrightwood and Lytle Creek, a thick cloud of smoke could be seen blanketing the entire valley.
A dozen fire trucks awaited orders to evacuate Paso Lane, located between several hills that were being devoured by flames, columns of smoke billowing into the sky.
"The whole community is being evacuated," said local firefighter Mike Anderson, who had been battling the blaze with his team for more than 24 straight hours.
"The fire is moving very fast straight through Highway 138, it is still growing."
Chon Bribiescas of the US Forest Services said later that the evacuation area was being expanded, with the wind picking up and the temperature soaring to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).