At least 2 dead in Southern California wildfire - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

At least 2 dead in Southern California wildfire

PORTER RANCH, Cali- Firefighters are trying to keep a fast-moving, wind-driven fire that is burning through brush in the Porter Ranch area from spreading to the Pacific Coast or into Ventura County.

Right now at least 2 deaths are being blamed on the wildfire. One person is believed to have died when he was caught in a canyon and trapped by the fire. Another person was killed when smoke and flames obstructed his view on the freeway, leading to a head-on collision.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in response to the wildfires.

The so-called "Season Fire" broke out in the Oat Mountain area just before 10:30 a.m. Monday and quickly grew to 5,000 acres, fanned by winds of 35 mph to 45 mph with gusts to 70 mph.

Fire officials were reporting no containment late Monday. They said 19 structures had been burned, however, they did not yet know how many of those buildings were homes.

Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect for some areas and voluntary evacuations are also being recommended.

Windier conditions threaten to have the fire cross the Ventura (101) Freeway and burn to the ocean or head deeper westward into Ventura County.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman called that possibility a "design for disaster."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said that 800 firefighters were on the scene Monday, with an additional 600 expected to arrive overnight. 

Fire crews from the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Ventura County and other parts of California were involved in the effort.

In addition, some 350 LAPD officers were working to evacuate residents near the fire.

Metrolink officials also shut down the Ventura County Line until further notice due to heavy smoke and ash from the fire.

Fire officials could not immediately estimate how many homes in Porter Ranch were in the fire's path. Flames burned furiously at midday just across a road from one development of luxury homes.

Video taken by television helicopter crews showed flames burning into some backyards,
burning decks and advancing toward homes.

Winds dropped in the evening but were predicted to roar back to life Tuesday morning.

The cause of the fire was not yet known.
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