Homes destroyed after winds push California fire into desert

JUNIPER HILLS, California (AP) – Homes were destroyed on Friday by an unrelenting wildfire that reached a Mojave Desert community and was still growing on several fronts after burning for nearly two weeks in mountains northeast of Los Angeles (LA).

Officials were investigating the death of a firefighter on the lines of another Southern California wildfire that erupted earlier this month from a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender.

The death occurred on Thursday in San Bernardino National Forest as crews battled the El Dorado Fire about 75 miles east of LA, the United States (US) Forest Service said in a statement.

In northern Los Angeles County, the Bobcat Fire burned semi-rural desert properties when it was pushed by gusts into the community of Juniper Hills after churning all the way across the San Gabriel Mountains.

Crews protected homes and chased spot fires sparked by embers blown across neighbourhoods by erratic winds. Surrounding areas were under evacuation orders.

“We’ve got a very active firefight on the north end of this fire and we’re bringing in more strike teams. We’ll be in this firefight for some time,” LA County Fire Captain David Dantic said on Friday evening

Wyatt Stephenson helped his friend evacuate his home at the top of Juniper Hills.

“We were waiting for the fire to come over the ridge. When it finally came over, we got him out of there,” Stephenson said. “We found out later that his house burned. The fire just burned everything.” It wasn’t immediately clear how many homes were burned in the area about 50 miles northeast of downtown LA. No injuries were reported.

On the south side of the blaze, firefighters continued to protect Mount Wilson, which overlooks greater Los Angeles and has a historic observatory founded more than a century ago and numerous broadcast antennas serving Southern California.

The wind whips embers from trees burned by the Bobcat Fire in Juniper Hills, California. PHOTO: AP