SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (AP) -- A wildfire sparked by welders' tools raced across northern Los Angeles County, destroying at least six homes, consuming 23,500 acres of tinder-dry brush and forcing 2,000 resident to flee.
People left behind more than 450 homes in the rural Green Valley and Warm Springs areas Thursday after authorities told them to get out. Many barely had time to pack a few belongings and lead pets, horses and sheep to safety.
"As I was pulling out, I looked up on Jupiter Hill and it was on fire, so right now, chances are my place is burned down," said rock musician Dolphin Capisos, who grabbed his guitar, legal papers and photo albums.
"I'm hoping for the best, but you know how it is," said Capisos, 56. "All you can do is hope."
The fire moved quickly at about a mile an hour, Forest Service spokesman Martin Esparza said.
Investigators who had originally deemed the fire suspicious said it was accidentally started by a welding operation at a construction site. "They were taking all the precautions that they could," Esparza said Friday morning. "Unfortunately, these things do happen."
Firefighters were limited in their ground attack because of the rugged terrain and plumes of thick smoke that hampered aircraft being used to fight the blaze. But a cooler forecast for Friday could make the battle somewhat easier, officials said.
As residents evacuated, many who had been at work 50 miles away in Los Angeles when their homes became threatened tried to return and were turned away by authorities.
"They said I may lose my house tomorrow," said Green Valley resident Chris Lawrence, tears welling in his eyes. Earlier, his wife fled with the couple's two cats.
About 2,000 people were ordered from their homes, said Inspector Armando Carrillo of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. By Friday morning, the fire had destroyed at least six homes, as well as other structures.
At one point, the blaze also threatened to trigger blackouts as it burned under power transmission lines that supply a large swath of Southern California. The threat passed as the fire began to burn away from the area Thursday night.
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