Firefighters may need until midweek to bring wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes in Southern California until control, a Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman says, reported CNN.
High winds have fanned blazes from Santa Barbara to Anaheim since Thursday, scorching an estimated 35,000 acres of land. Sustained winds were expected to ease Monday, but locally gusty conditions and humidity in the single-digit range could continue into Tuesday, the National Weather Service predicted.
"If we were being very optimistic, we would be looking at the middle of the week," L.A. County Capt. Dennis Cross said. "If the weather forecast holds and we continue to get the great work being done in the last 24 hours, we're hoping mid-week."
The bulk of the losses have been in the Oakridge Mobile Home Park in the Sylmar district of Los Angeles, where winds clocked as high as 70 mph drove a wall of flames across the hillsides and destroyed nearly 500 homes. Authorities combed through the scorched wreckage Sunday in an effort to account for the park's residents, only 134 of whom had been accounted for earlier in the day.
No bodies were found during the search, and police believe most of those living in the 608 mobile homes fled the fire, Deputy Police Chief Michael Moore said. But he urged those who escaped to call in and let investigators know they survived.
"If you are a resident of this park, we want to talk to you," he said. "We want to know you are safe and know where you're at."
Crews were still struggling to contain the blazes Sunday afternoon.
"It is a wind-driven fire, and with those gusty winds up to 25 miles an hour, it's giving the firefighters a really difficult time. It's hopscotched throughout the county," said Lynette Round, a spokeswoman for Orange County Fire Authority, said.
The largest of the three fires, the Freeway Complex fire, had set ablaze nearly 24,000 acres in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties. Most of the damage was in Orange County, in the suburbs of Anaheim and Yorba Linda, where more than 100 homes were destroyed.
As of Sunday evening, fire officials said the blaze was about 19 percent contained.
The Sayre fire, which destroyed the mobile home park, was about 40 percent contained Sunday evening after burning about 10,000 acres. Five firefighters and one civilian suffered minor injuries in the blaze, the Los Angeles County Fire Department reported. Photo See images from the Los Angeles County fire "
And in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, firefighters said they had the Tea fire 80 percent contained after it destroyed more than 100 homes. Among the losses in the 1,900-plus acres it incinerated were a monastery and several mansions in a community where celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, have homes.
Investigators have deemed the blaze suspicious, having eliminated "all accidental causes," said Doug Lannon, a spokesman for the state fire agency.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County after the fire damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and closed major freeways. The move frees up any state resources needed, and makes the county eligible for a federal assistance grant.