Raging wildfire skips two freeways in LA as firefighters race to save homes

A fast-moving wildfire skipped over two freeways and raced toward residential areas in northern Los Angeles -- one of several blazes fueled by gusty winds in the region. Source: Hector Landeros/Twitter
By Faith Karimi and Gianluca Mezzofiore, CNN

(CNN) -- A fast-moving wildfire skipped over two freeways and raced toward residential areas in northern Los Angeles-- one of several blazes fueled by gusty winds in the region.

The Saddleridge Fire, which started Thursday and exploded to 4,600 acres by early Friday, has destroyed an undetermined number of homes and led to mandatory evacuations in and near Los Angeles' Porter Ranch neighborhood, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

"The fire is in such a dynamic state, we're just trying to protect homes," the fire department said.

The fire started around 9 p.m. ET and jumped the 210 and 5 freeways, and some parts of the roads were closed in both directions as orange embers lit up the night sky. By late Thursday it had gutted 60 acres; but some four hours later, it had grown to 4,600 acres, fire officials said.

Hector Landeros, who lives in Sylmar, said he heard fire trucks and police cruisers speeding through the streets Thursday night as the massive flames got closer.

"In some areas, the streets have started to empty but at the front lines people are watching, waiting on the sidewalk not really knowing what to do," he told CNN early Friday. "There are a lot of people trying to get into their neighborhoods."

Shaun Butch said he saw flames on both sides of the freeway while driving on Interstate 5.

"Everything was engulfed in smoke and visibility was so low it was hard to drive. Everyone on the Interstate 5 north was stopped and trapped. Still was able to barely get through on the Interstate 5 north."

Patsy Zamora said as she drove on the freeway with the fire next to the truck route, she could feel the heat through the windows.

This blaze and others in Southern California are being spread in part by strong Santa Ana winds -- hot winds coming from inland deserts. Many parts of the region are under red-flag warnings -- meaning high fire risk -- into Friday afternoon.

It's one of multiple fires in the region

The Saddleridge Fire is one of several burning in Southern California.

Another blaze -- the Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa, some 70 miles east of Los Angeles -- has destroyed at least 74 structures since it began Thursday afternoon, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. It has burned at least 500 acres and was at least 10% contained.

It started when the load on a garbage truck caught on fire and spread to vegetation, Capt. Fernando Herrera of Cal Fire Riverside told CNN affiliate KABC.

"Due to the Santa Ana wind influx, obviously this fire just completely went out of control. It started just eating up vegetation as fast as the eye can see," he said.

Residents are under mandatory evacuation orders, and 120 firefighters are assigned to the area.

Less than 20 miles away in Moreno Valley, the Reche Fire has burned at least 350 acres and was 10% contained Thursday evening. The fire went from 100 to 200 acres in about 90 minutes, before nearly doubling two hours later. Mandatory evacuations have been issued in surrounding areas, and the cause is under investigation.

Southern California Edison cut power to almost 24,000 customers Thursday to prevent wildfires caused by high winds downing live power equipment.

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