LOS ANGELES – Flames whirled dangerously close to homes Tuesday as gusty Santa Ana winds sent the biggest of Southern California’s wildfires flaring in hilly brushlands on Los Angeles’ northern edge and along subdivisions to the west.
Firefighters with hoses guarded houses as helicopters unleashed loads of water on hot spots of the more than 20-square-mile blaze charring slopes above the San Fernando Valley communities of Porter Ranch and Granada Hills.
Flames then pushed west to the rolling grasslands of Ventura County and made runs toward Simi Valley neighborhoods of modern homes defended by a broad firebreak, helicopters, airplanes and ground crews.
The fire is one of three major blazes that have burned more than 34 square miles of Southern California, destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes this week. One man died in the flames, and a motorist was killed in a crash as a fire neared a freeway.
Fifteen homes and 47 outbuildings were destroyed in the Porter Ranch area, and another six homes were damaged, said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Ron Haralson. Officials said Tuesday night they did not know how much of the fire was contained.
Ten miles away, there was major progress against Los Angeles’ other big wildfire.
A 7 1/2 -square-mile blaze in the northeastern San Fernando Valley was 80 percent contained and some evacuees were allowed to go home. But people who lived in an area where 38 mobile homes were destroyed were not permitted to return.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa acknowledged the uncertainty facing residents of the fire areas.
“Many still don’t know when they are going to return home,” he told a news conference. “Our hearts and prayers are out with all of them.”