Firefighters fought to spare homes today from a growing Southern California forest fire, a day after flames came perilously close to neighbourhoods and destroyed one house.
Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside counties as the fire carved its way along ridges in Cleveland National Forest south of Los Angeles.
Some hillsides were allowed to burn under the watchful eyes of firefighters as a way to reduce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump roadways into communities if winds pick up again.
Aircraft dropped fire retardant on flames and homes as people ignoring evacuation orders used garden hoses to spray down their properties when the blaze flared Thursday evening, propelled by 30-kph gusts.
The Holy Fire burned 12 cabins at its origin in the community of Holy Jim on Monday. It had grown to nearly 77 square kilometres by Friday night (local time).
However, firefighters also doubled their containment from 5 to 10 per cent.
It's one of nearly 20 blazes across California, which is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.
Firefighters aided by cooler weather have made good progress against a blaze burning for nearly a month near Yosemite National Park in the northern part of the state.
The park was set to reopen Wednesday after a two-week closure, park spokesman Scott Gediman said today.
Visitors should expect limited hours and visitor services next week as the park returns to normal, he said. The blaze didn't reach the heart of the park and instead burned in remote areas, making roads inaccessible and polluting the area with smoke.
The closure dealt a financial blow to Yosemite at the height of the summer season and caused upheaval for thousands of tourists whose summer trips were cancelled.
Officials also gained more control over two other major Northern California wildfires, including the largest in recorded state history, even as evacuations were ordered for communities near a new fire in the Fall River Mills area, about 112 kilometres northeast of Redding.
About 350 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders because of the Hat Fire, which began yesterday near a highway.
In the south, Cleveland National Forest officials tweeted that the flames outside Los Angeles were growing as fast as crews can build lines to contain them.
"We continue to actively engage, but cannot get ahead of the fire," the statement said.
The fire was deliberately set. A resident of Holy Jim has been charged with arson and other crimes and appeared in a jailhouse courtroom today.
Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened.
A court commissioner postponed his arraignment until August 17 and ordered bail to remain at $1.5 million.
"May I pay for that immediately?" asked Clark, who could face life in prison if convicted.
At one point, Clark covered his face with his long hair and later stared directly at a camera providing a video feed to reporters outside the courtroom.
Michael Milligan, chief of the Holy Jim Volunteer Fire Department, has told the Orange County Register that Clark had a decade-long feud with neighbours and had sent him threatening emails last week, including one that said, "This place will burn."
Crews turned a corner in their battle against Northern California's Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest-ever in recorded state history, getting it 60 per cent contained.
The fire more than 160 kilometres north of Sacramento has destroyed more than 100 homes and blackened an area about the size of Los Angeles.