A ferocious wildfire has brought destruction and uncertainty in the US state of California where thousands of firefighters have barely contained one of the worst infernos in the state’s history.
After a fierce 48-hour battle, weary firefighters say they have only managed to put out about 4 percent of the historic Blue Cut fire, named after a small trail where it started on Tuesday.
California fire authorities said Thursday morning that the fire had grown at an “explosive” pace, spreading through almost 2,025 hectares (5,000 acres) of land overnight.
Firefighters attack the Blue Cut Fire near Lytle Creek, California, August 17, 2016. (AFP photo)
According to the multi-agency Inciweb information site, the fire has so far burned through some 10,370 hectares (25,626 acres).
The raging flames have also forced 82,000 residents to flee their homes in Southern California in less than 12 hours.
A fire tornado forms near cars parked on a country road at the Blue Cut Fire, near Wrightwood, California, August 17, 2016. (AFP photo)
According to a US Forest Service spokeswoman, authorities have told people to evacuate nearly 34,000 homes, but so far only half of the residents have heeded.
“There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing,” San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said. “It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn't seen before."
As of Thursday morning, a red flag warning was still in effect, meaning that the fire continued to spread due to increasing temperatures during the day and the extremely dry weather conditions.
The fire is so extreme that NASA satellites have captured its devastating effects during their daily overpasses of the burning area.
In a NASA bird’s-eye view (seen above), the Blue Cut fire is seen as three columns of smoke billowing from the mountains located east of Los Angeles. The smoke, according to NASA, has spread northeast and extends into the state of Nevada.
Another fire began Saturday in the foothill community of Lower Lake, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of San Francisco.
The blaze, which has been fueled by fierce winds, had burnt about 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) by late Monday afternoon.
On Monday, police arrested Damin Pashilk, 40, who faces 17 counts of arson in relation to the ongoing blaze.
California is undergoing its fifth year of a record drought and is being hit by an extreme heat wave.