US & Canada

Hundreds flee uncontained Banning California wildfire

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Media captionFire officials said about a dozen structures have been damaged or destroyed

About 1,500 people have been forced to flee their homes in southern California as a wildfire rages out of control, fire officials have said.

Two firefighters and a civilian have been injured since the fire started on Wednesday near the city of Banning.

The rapidly spreading blaze covered about 10,000 acres (4,047 ha) and was uncontained on Thursday morning.

Fire officials said 15 structures had been damaged and aerial news footage showed several houses burning.

The injured civilian had suffered severe burns, officials told NBC Los Angeles. The person was airlifted to a local burn centre for treatment.

The fire, first reported early on Wednesday afternoon, exploded in size as winds fanned the flames across the dry ground.

Some fleeing residents were forced to "shelter in place" as the moving fire cut off escape paths.

According to Cal Fire, about 1,000 firefighters were on the scene and were supported by six air tankers and 13 helicopters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorised the use of funds to assist with fighting the blaze, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Lili Arroyo, 83, told how firefighters helped her flee her home which was rebuilt after being destroyed in a 2006 wildfire. She made her escape with her pet cockatiel, Tootsie, in its cage.

"The smoke was so bad you couldn't see," she told the Associated Press news agency. "There were embers and ash coming down all over the sky.

"I was starting not to be able to breathe."