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More evacuations called as Southern California’s fire peaks

LAKEPORT, Calif. – The Latest on forest fires of California (all times are local):

4 hours

The authorities insist evacuation for people in the path of an arson, caused by a wildfire that is exploding along the ridges, hills and canyons south of Los Angeles.

The call for voluntary evacuations was issued on Thursday for people in the vicinity of a mountainside above Lake Elsinore, joining at least 20,000 people who are under the mandatory evacuation orders as the fire churns through the Cleveland National Forest.

The fire is burning through dense, heavy chaparral, and came within a meter of a number of houses in the hills. Early on, the fire that broke out Monday and burned a dozen cabins.

Winds gusting to almost 20 mph to help drive the flames through tinder-dry brush. Temperatures have topped 100 degrees and the humidity is in single digits.

Meanwhile, a man who is accused of starting the fire, refused to go to the court Thursday. Forrest Clark could face life in prison if convicted.

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9 hours

At least 20,000 ft, and canyon residents have been evacuated as a growing wildfire churns through the Cleveland National Forest in the south of Los Angeles.

Fire spokeswoman Kate Kramer says Thursday that the majority of the 15-square-meter (39-square-km) blaze is burning in wildland areas. But officials are concerned about the flames creeping down the hills in the direction of the neighborhoods. The fire is only 5 percent contained.

Kramer says crews with air support are also trying to keep the flames away from the area of Santiago Peak, where critical communications infrastructure for the region.

Officials say that the heavy smoke settling on the surrounding communities is the creation of unhealthy conditions.

A 51-year-old man arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with the so-called Holy Fire is expected in court Thursday.

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7 hours

California fire officials say the largest blaze ever recorded in the state is now more than half contained.

But the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Thursday it will take several weeks to complete around the huge forest fire in Northern California, because it is burning in steep terrain that is difficult to reach.

Cal Fire says the blaze that charred 475 square miles (1,230 square km) of brush and timber is 51 percent contained.

In Southern California, a wildfire that prompted evacuations in the canyon and foothills areas south of Los Angeles continues to grow, with a minimal inclusion.

New evacuations were ordered Wednesday. Flames creep down the hills in the direction of the houses in the city of Lake Elsinore, where the crew are prepared to provide structure protection.

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