Thousands of residents have evacuated their homes in the San Jacinto Mountains as a wildfire that grew to 35 square miles early Thursday continues to burn under tinderbox conditions.
Known as the Mountain wildfire, it continued to burn along the rugged terrain southwest of Palm Springs, Calif., officials said.
"This fire is moving pretty fast and we're getting such strange winds and weather that they're changing on us frequently," Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley said. "We're erring on the side of caution to get people out as soon as we can."
The blaze about 100 miles east of Los Angeles had grown to more than 35 square miles in size and had destroyed at least six houses and mobile homes.
Fire officials said the blaze was just 15 percent contained and had been growing in a manner that was unlike what they typically experience. Tina Rose, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the behavior was extreme.
U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Melody Lardner said the forward movement of the fire had been burning toward desert areas but changed direction after a weather system began moving into the area.
By Wednesday night, flames were visible in Palm Springs, a city of almost 50,000 that started out about a dozen miles from the fire's origin. The fire has split into two fronts, one advancing northeast toward Palm Springs, another east toward Palm Desert.
Nearly 3,000 firefighters and more than a dozen aircraft were assigned to the fire, which has been churning through thick, dry brush and scattered trees in a high-elevation area above 5,000 feet.
Temperatures were expected to linger near 100 degrees for the next two days before a weekend cooling trend with a slight chance of rain
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