Thousands forced to flee homes as wildfires rage on edge of Los Angeles

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes as firefighters battle a wildfire raging on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

The blaze erupted late on Thursday along the northern tier of the San Fernando Valley as powerful winds swept Southern California, fanning the flames.

The fire has spread to cover more than seven square miles, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department forcing 100,000 people in more than 20,000 homes to leave under mandatory evacuation orders.

About 1,000 firefighters on the ground attack the flames in and around homes while helicopters and planes are making repeated drops of water and fire retardant.

A number of properties have been destroyed.

Fire chief Ralph Terrazas said there are sustained winds of 20-25mph with gusts over 50mph, and relative humidity levels have fallen as low as 3%.

“As you can imagine the embers from the wind have been travelling a significant distance, which causes another fire to start,” he said.

Embers from fires are drifting in strong winds, spreading the flames further Credit: Michael Owen Baker/AP

Evacuations are still in effect in the inland region east of Los Angeles where a fire erupted on Thursday.

Riverside County authorities are trying to determine if anyone is missing after the fire raged through a mobile home park in the Calimesa area of Riverside County.

Seventy-four buildings were destroyed in the blaze's wake and damaged others.

Firefighters battle the Saddleridge fire in Sylmar, California Credit: David Swanson/AP

A typically dry summer in southern California and early autumn, combined with the notorious Santa Ana winds are dangerous mix, bringing a dangerous mix of low humidity levels and powerful gusts.

The Calimesa fire erupted when the driver of a commercial rubbish truck dumped a smoldering load to prevent the vehicle from catching fire.

Dry grass quickly ignited and winds gusting to 50mph blew the fire into the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, about 75 miles east of central Los Angeles. The park has 110 home sites and was built in 1958, according to its website.

About 160 students sheltered as smoke enveloped nearby Mesa View Middle School before buses arrived and evacuated them to another school outside the fire zone.

A woman evacuates her home with her cat amid thick smoke in the Granada Hills Credit: Michael Owen Baker/AP

Linda Klosek, 70, and her daughter Stacey Holloway, 43, had gone shopping and were on their way back to Villa Calimesa when they saw their neighbours evacuating.

Ms Klosek said: “You couldn’t even see anything, the smoke was so thick.

They watched on TV from an evacuation centre as flames destroyed their home.

“When you’re watching it, it’s like someone else’s home,” Ms Holloway said.