Calif. wildfire forces 82,000 to evacuate


Associated Press

LOS ANGELES

A new wildfire spread Tuesday at a staggering pace in every direction through drought-parched canyons east of Los Angeles, growing to 14 square miles in a matter of hours and forcing the evacuation of more than 82,000 people from mountain communities.

The blaze in Cajon Pass caused serious problems for a swath of mountain communities that included Wrightwood, a town of 4,500 people known for its ski slopes.

The flames also forced the shutdown of a section of Interstate 15, the main highway between Southern California and Las Vegas.

As that fire surged, a major blaze north of San Francisco was fading and some 4,000 people in the town of Clearlake were allowed to return home.

Their relief, however, was tempered with anger at a man who authorities believe set the blaze that wiped out several blocks of a small town over the weekend along with 16 smaller fires dating back to last summer.

The wildfires were the latest in a weeks-long stretch of heat- and drought-driven fires across California that raged well before the official start of wildfire season in early autumn.

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