More than 1,600 firefighters fought an uncontrollable wildfire Sunday in California's Santa Clarita Valley, an inferno that fire officials say grew three times larger over the weekend due to hot, arid conditions and winds up to 20mph, NBC News and the Los Angeles Times report. More than 33,000 acres have now become enveloped in flames in what's become known as the Sand fire, said to be only 10% contained by Monday morning. About 1,500 mandatory evacuations remain in place after winds gave the fire new life Sunday, even though initially some residents were to return to their homes then. "All the experience we've had with fires is out the window," Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp tells the AP. At least 18 homes were destroyed over the weekend, and a body was found in a burned-out car on Saturday, though officials haven't mentioned the cause of death. Smoke could be spotted from as far away as Las Vegas, around 270 miles away.
Flames were said to leap up to 50 feet high, with authorities noting the blaze raced forward "like a freight train," per the AP. In addition to the fire-friendly weather, California's drought conditions and about 60 years without a big blaze left the area vulnerable to a wildfire, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said Saturday. "Five years ago, if we had a similar fire, we would have probably caught [it] at the ridge," Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby told reporters, adding via the AP: "For this time of year, it's the most extreme fire behavior I've seen in my 32-year career." And three other fires so far this season in Los Angeles County have fire officials concerned. "We are in July," Tripp tells the Times. "We've never had four major fires within six weeks in June and July." One local who was evacuated lamented to the Monterey Herald, "I hope I don't have to rebuild my house. I'm 66." (The Pacific Standard says the fire is an omen of "things to come.")