A car crash that downed power lines turned the hills northwest of Los Angeles into torches, forcing thousands from their homes and putting entire neighborhoods at risk in the prosperous semi-rural enclave of Calabasas, reports the AP. Fifty-foot-high flames erupted on the ridges and embers turned trees into candles Saturday afternoon. And while the flames eased overnight, firefighters continued Sunday to battle the blaze. Some 3,000 homes were threatened and about 5,000 residents were evacuated, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. The fire flared as Southern California sweltered under temperatures that hit the mid-90s in many places. At its height, the flames put about 3,000 homes at risk, although not under imminent threat, fire officials said. "We're dealing with a fire that's moving in every direction simultaneously...we can't get to everybody," Battalion Chief Dennis Cross told KNBC-TV. "It's hard for people to see where this fire is because of the dense canopy and the canyons." Deputies were described as defending strangers' home with hoses before firefighters arrived.
Three homes were damaged but the extent of the damage wasn't clear, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Keith Mora said. Some other buildings, including some at a city park, also were damaged. The fire started as three blazes that erupted after a car hit a power pole and knocked down electrical lines. One fire in the West Hills area of Los Angeles was quickly doused but blazes in Calabasas joined and raced through drought-dry brush in hills surrounded by developments. The blaze grew to 200 acres in a matter of hours. Embers ignited trees and clumps of brush within yards of million-dollar homes. Smoke could be seen for miles. Around 200 firefighters, aided by bulldozers and water-dropping helicopters, had the blaze 15% contained by late Saturday night. (Read more fire stories.)