GREEN VALLEY, Calif. -- Thousands of firefighters battled a wind-whipped wildfire that has consumed 23,500 acres, destroyed nine homes and forced the evacuation of 1,500 residents in small forest communities north of Los Angeles.
Clouds of dark smoke blew through this small town in the Angeles National Forest on Friday as the fire crackled through thick, old brush and firefighters set controlled burns to clear out vegetation.
Some 2,000 firefighters along with 14 airplanes and six helicopters worked to attack the flames.
The blaze was accidentally ignited Wednesday by a grinding tool and became California's most dangerous wildfire Thursday evening when it suddenly quadrupled in size. Eight of nine homes destroyed were lost during the expansion.
Late Friday night it was only 15 percent contained.
To the west in Ventura County, the state's other huge blaze had burned 20,800 acres in Los Padres National Forest north of Ojai.
The Ojai fire was 25 percent contained Friday night, and other smaller fires that had been burning since last week were either contained or under control.
Fires had burned an estimated 90,000 acres on and around a Boy Scout ranch in northern New Mexico, forcing ranch officials to change itineraries of a summer backpacking program beginning this week.
In southwestern Colorado, a 50-acre wildfire that had threatened 90 homes near Durango was contained Friday night and the evacuation order was lifted.
In Utah, a fire near Zion National Park grew to 1,200 acres Friday evening, threatening 10 vacation homes and five outbuildings. The fire, 21 miles east of Cedar City and seven air miles north of the park, was one of three large wildfires burning in southern Utah.
Some Green Valley residents who evacuated returned Friday to find out whether their homes were still standing. The destroyed homes were in outlying areas.
Bill McKelvie, 61, and partner Tom Hasty, 27, found their 33-acre property covered in burned brush, some smoldering, and patches of white ash. The fire came within 10 feet of their ranch-style home and 3 feet from their full propane tank.
They said Green Valley became a ghost town when firefighters got most people to leave Thursday evening.
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