An army of firefighters toiled Thursday morning to prevent a massive fire from consuming communities in the Lake Hughes area after the blaze exploded to more than 10,000 acres in just a few hours Wednesday.
The Lake fire started in the Angeles National Forest near the 5 Freeway and rapidly roared through stands of pine trees. It then moved toward several small communities on the Antelope Valley floor west of Lancaster. On Wednesday night, it burned rapidly to the northeast, toward Highway 138.
The combination of thick vegetation that hasn’t burned in several decades and hot and dry windy conditions is fueling the fire, according to Seneca Smith, a public information officer with the Angeles National Forest.
By sunrise Thursday, the blaze had chewed through 10,500 acres and destroyed three structures. More than 5,000 buildings remain threatened, according to officials with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
“Current objectives include keeping the fire north of Castaic Lake, south of Highway 138, east of Red Rock Mountain and west of Tule Ridge,” officials wrote in an incident update Thursday morning.
Officials will face challenging weather conditions over the coming days. The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings that will take effect throughout Southern California on Friday and remain in place through Monday evening.
“Today, hot air temperatures in the 90s to 100s, lower relative humidities and drying fuels will bring elevated fire weather conditions,” officials wrote in the incident update, adding that they expect “extreme and aggressive fire behavior influenced by steep topography, with spotting and rapid fire growth.”
The cause of the fire is unknown.
More than 1,000 personnel, as well as several helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, have been deployed to the scene, with assistance provided by the L.A. County Fire Department, the Angeles National Forest and numerous fire departments in the area.
“We’ll also be out here for multiple days to come,” said David Richardson, the chief deputy of emergency operations for the L.A. County Fire Department.