Firefighters struggle to contain southern California blaze

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – More than 1,300 firefighters were battling a blaze that was burning out of control on Sunday in southern California, threatening thousands of people and homes east of Los Angeles.

The so-called Apple Fire that broke out on Friday near the city of San Bernardino has so far charred more than 20,000 acres, sending up columns of smoke visible from far away.

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

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

come back. Just before midday, more than 1,360 firefighters backed by helicopters, water-dumping planes and trucks were working to put out the fire.

Crew managed to contain five per cent of the fire by Sunday evening, after losing control of the blaze during the afternoon.

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 crew to reach, authorities said.

Firefighters watch the Apple Fire in Banning, California. PHOTO: AP