Aggressive wildfire threatens thousands of homes in southern California city

Hundreds of firefighters were building barriers and constructing containment lines early on Friday to slow an approaching wildfire threatening to torch thousands of homes in a lakeside community southeast of Los Angeles.

More than 21,000 people have been evacuated in and around Lake Elsinore where furious flames and billowing smoke rose into the sky at the edge of the city of 60,000 as the blaze, dubbed the Holy Fire, burned nearby in the Santa Ana Mountains.

"It feels like a war zone," Ana Tran told the Los Angeles Times as ash and flame retardant fell on her neighborhood.

The fire, which was five percent contained, was being fueled by dry brush covering steep terrain and stoked by erratic wind gusts during the night, said Thanh Nguyen, a spokesman for the incident said.

"Strong down drafts is making the fire move aggressively downhill," said Nguyen, noting that firefighters were working to build barriers and containment lines to protect more than 2,000 homes at risk from the fire.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the relatively small blaze that consumed more than 10,200 acres (4,128 hectares) since it began on Tuesday, fire officials said.

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Devastating images from California's Carr fire
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Devastating images from California's Carr fire
Hills are bare after being burned in the Carr Fire near Igo, California, U.S. July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong
Smoke from the Carr Fire shrouds the Clear Creek Bridge near Igo, California, U.S. July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
REDDING, CA - JULY 30: Forest burns in the Carr Fire on July 30, 2018 west of Redding, California. Six people have died in the massive fire, which has burned over 100,000 acres and forced thousands to evacuate since it began on July 23. (Photo by Terray Sylvester/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Firefighter Shawn Lee (R) from the Lake Forest unit and his colleagues try to contain flames from the Carr fire as it spreads towards the town of Douglas City near Redding, California on July 30, 2018. - Thousands of firefighters in California made some progress against several large-scale blazes that have turned close to 200,000 acres (80,940 hectares) into an ashen wasteland, destroyed expensive homes, and killed eight fire personnel and civilians in the most populous US state. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Crews from CalFire and the Whitewood Volunteer Fire Department battle a flare-up near Buckhorn, Calif., on Highway 299 during the Carr fire in Shasta-Trinity counties on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
Fire fighter Wyatt Belden from Gold Ridge Fire Protection in Sonoma County, monitors a fire burning off Keck Road, just west of Lakeport, Calif., on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
A house burns during the Mendocino Complex fire near Finley, California on July 30, 2018. - Thousands of firefighters in California made some progress against several large-scale blazes that have turned close to 200,000 acres into an ashen wasteland, destroyed expensive homes, and killed eight fire personnel and civilians in the most populous US state. The worst blaze, northern California's Carr Fire, has killed six people since Thursday, including a 70-year-old woman and her two great-grandchildren aged four and five. They perished when flames swallowed their home in Redding. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 28: A home continues to burn after the Carr Fire moved through the area on July 28, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 28: A deer stands on a road covered with fire retardant as the Carr Fire burns in the area on July 28, 2018 near Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Trees burst into flame during the Carr fire near Whiskeytown, California on July 27, 2018. Two firefighters have died and more than 100 homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Burned down vehicles sit at a property under a deep orange sky during the Carr fire near Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - Two firefighters have died and more than 100 homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A motorcycle sits next to a home that was destroyed by the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 27: Smoke from the Carr Fire hangs over Whiskeytown Lake on July 27, 2018 in Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A view of cars that were destroyed by the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An inmate firefighter pauses during a firing operation as the Carr fire continues to burn in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - One person has died and at least two others have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A charred neighborhood destroyed by the Carr Fire is seen west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
REDDING, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: A home is destroyed by wildfire in Redding, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHASTA, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: Dead fish lay in a pond water wildfire swept through and destroyed homes in Shasta, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2018: Wildfire destroyed and sunk boats docked at the marina in Whiskeytown, Calif., on July 28, 2018. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 28: A Cal Fire truck drives along highway 299 as the Carr Fire burns in the hills on July 28, 2018 neat Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and a bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 80,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes. The fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A destroyed car is seen among the ruins of a burned neighborhood after the Carr fire passed through the area of Lake Keswick Estates near Redding, California on July 28, 2018. - The US federal government approved aid Saturday for California as thousands of firefighters battled to contain a series of deadly raging wildfires that have killed six people and destroyed hundreds of buildings. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WHISKEYTOWN, CA - JULY 27: Smoke rises from the Carr Fire as it burns along highway 299 on July 27, 2018 near Whiskeytown, California. A Redding firefighter and bulldozer operator were killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire that has burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is 3 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the area on Thursday, freeing up additional resources to battle the blaze. Forrest Clark, 51, was charged with setting the fire, the Orange County District Attorney Office said.

The Holy Fire was one of several fires burning in California that have displaced tens of thousands of people. Wildfires across the state and region could be further stoked by strong gusts, low humidity and hot weather on Friday and Saturday, forecasters warned.

In Northern California, a mechanic helping to fight the Carr Fire burning around Redding was killed in a traffic collision on Thursday, bringing the death toll from that blaze to eight, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said.

The 178,000-acre Carr Fire has killed two other firefighters along with three members of one family and has destroyed nearly 1,100 homes. It was 49 percent contained with firefighters struggling in steep terrain to control the blaze, CalFire said.

More than 4,000 firefighters are battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, which has burned 305,200 acres in three counties north of San Francisco, CalFire said.

Two firefighters were injured and 119 homes destroyed by that fire which now ranks as the largest fire on record in the state. 

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