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Thousands Flee Calif. Wildfire Moving Toward Populated Area

About 6,000 people in California have been ordered out of their homes by authorities worried that a wildfire is quickly moving toward a more populous area southeast of Los Angeles.

TheLos Angeles Times reports:

"Fire commanders leading the battle to stop the 19,600-acre Mountain fire were concerned about a shift in the winds Wednesday night that was pushing the blaze toward the resort town of Idyllwild, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Melody Lardner told The Times.

"The forward advance of the blaze, which was only 15% contained, had been burning toward desert areas but changed direction after a frontal system began moving into the area, Lardner said.

"'They are stepping up their efforts,' she said of the firefighters trying to stop the flames as they burned across timber and dry chaparral."

The Associated Press reports that the wildfire has already destroyed "three houses, damaged another and destroyed three mobile homes, a cabin, a garage and about a half-dozen vehicles."

Also, current weather conditions favor the fire: Temperatures might soar to 105 degrees Thursday, and the humidity could drop below 1 percent.

"I was here at sun-up, and the fire was burning like it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon. That is extreme fire behavior," Tina Rose, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the AP. "The slightest little spark is going to make a run and torch trees. It's just so bone dry."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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