Five-thousand residents were ordered out of their homes in Sylmar, California, early Saturday as a fast-spreading wildfire burned along on the northern boundary of Los Angeles, reported CNN.
The flames erupted late Friday in the steep terrain of the Angeles National Forest on the outskirts of Sylmar, about 20 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The blaze covered 1,500 acres and threatened at least 1,000 homes just three hours after it was first reported, according to Los Angeles Fire spokesman Armando Hogan.
Flames jumped the 210 Freeway in Sylmar, forcing its closure, Hogan said.
A fire official said firefighters first learned of the blaze after it was spotted by CNN affiliate KTLA-TV's helicopter crew. Officials said the cause of the fire is not yet known.
High winds and low humidity caused the fire to "expand geometrically" in two directions, according to Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Don Fraser. "This fire will move faster than you can walk or run."
Wind gusts of up to 50 mph were measured, Fraser said.
A 40-year-old man suffered severe burns from the fire, a fire department spokeswoman said.
More than 500 firefighters were on hand to help residents evacuate and protect homes within hours of the fire's initial outbreak, Fraser said. Many of them were already in the area Friday because of concerns a fire could ignite, he said.
everal helicopters flew missions to drop water on the edges of the fire to slow its advance, but the effort to contain the flames had not yet begun, according to Fraser.
Residents in the Sylmar area were ordered to evacuate early Saturday and more evacuations could follow, according to Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michael Moore. iReport.com: Are you in the path of wildfires?
Two high schools opened as evacuation shelters began filling early Saturday.
Firefighters surrounded the Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar as flames approached and a decision was made not to immediately evacuate all of its patients, according to hospital spokeswoman Carla Nino.
The hospital lost power early Saturday and its emergency generators also failed, Nino said.
Five infants and six adults in the intensive care unit were being evacuated by ambulance, but the 200 other patients were expected to stay inside since the flames appeared to be moving away from the hospital, Nino said.
Nino said she smelled "some odor of smoke" inside the hospital, and dense smoke surrounded the facility outside.
A storage building, which housed hospital records, was destroyed by flames, said Chris Negretti, a hospital maintenance worker.
Another wildfire roaring out of control in Santa Barbara County about 70 miles to the west has destroyed upward of 150 homes, charred 1,500 acres and possibly contributed to at least one death, officials said Friday.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday in Santa Barbara County as firefighters work to contain the fire.
Investigators said they have not determined the cause of the blaze, but they are looking into leads at the privately owned Tea Garden Estate, about a mile north of Santa Barbara's Westmont College.
Oprah Winfrey, Michael Douglas and Rob Lowe are some of the celebrities with homes in the hillside town of Montecito, which has been affected by the fire. It was not known if any celebrities' homes have been damaged.