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Firefighters battle raging California wildfire

San Bernardino County firefighters assigned to the Springs Fire look on as a wall of flames approaches on May 3, 2013 in Hidden Hills, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP

MALIBU, United States / California: Firefighters deployed ground crews overnight Friday to Saturday to battle a raging southern California wildfire that nearly tripled in size as it threatened 4,000 homes.

The Springs Fire, near Malibu 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Los Angeles, grew to 28,000 acres (11,300 hectares) from 10,000 acres Friday morning.

The Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) said that the blaze was just 20 percent contained. Aerial operations ended for the night, but ground crews would continue battling the blaze, the department said.

California typically has fires later in the year, but strong winds and temperatures in the 90s (30s Celsius) have triggered a series of brushfires this week -- including a new one in Glendale, just outside Los Angeles.

In the fire near Malibu, nearly 1,000 firefighters battled wind-fanned flames that have ripped through tinder-dry brush, threatening some 4,000 homes during the day, the VCFD said.

Some celebrities, including actors Jamie Foxx and Tom Selleck, live near the evacuation area, according to KTLA 5 television. Many of the homes were luxury ranches that had stables of horses and other animals.

The fire started Thursday, forcing the closure of an eight-mile section of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and a university campus, and reaching a US Navy facility on the coast, reports said.

By Friday, at least 15 homes had been damaged but none destroyed, the VCFD said on its Twitter feed. More than 950 firefighters were battling the blaze, while in the morning they said it was 10 percent contained.

The VCFD initially announced the reopening of the PCH at the end of the afternoon, but a short time later said it would remain closed due to concern about rockslides.

The operation, aided by firefighters from neighboring areas including Los Angeles, was complicated after winds did an about-turn and pushed the fire back north during the day, forcing further evacuations.

Eight helicopters and six planes were dropping water and fire retardant onto blazing hillsides to protect homes in the area.

"There are some big beautiful homes up there... But so far, they're doing a good job of protecting them," VCFD spokeswoman Lori Ross told the LA Times.

California State University at Channel Islands remained closed, after canceling all classes and activities at its Camarillo site Thursday "due to the (fire) and heavy smoke drifting onto the campus."

Wildfires are common across the western United States in the summer, and in southern California they are often fanned by strong offshore Santa Ana winds later in the year, in the fall or winter.

But another blaze erupted Friday in Glendale, a residential suburb just 10 miles north of Los Angeles, burning some 75 acres of brush and forcing some local evacuations and the closure a nearby freeway.

 

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