A fast-moving brush fire early Saturday in Southern California threatened more than two dozen homes and forced evacuations, and closed stretches of some highways, officials said.
Ventura County Fire said the blaze near Solimar Beach reached about 365 hectares (900 acres) by early Saturday, threatened about 30 homes and closed miles of Pacific Coast Highway and U.S. Highway 101 near Ventura, local media reported.
The fire had also stopped rail traffic through the region, The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
The blaze, reported about 11 p.m. local time Friday, had burned about 100 hectares (250 acres) near Solimar Beach by 1 a.m. Saturday, Ventura County Fire Captain Mike Lindbery told reporters. Within an hour, it had grown to 365 hectares, officials said.
California has been suffering under drought conditions for the past four years.
Potential for mudslides
A strong El Nino, a warming weather phenomenon that is expected to peak in the first few months of the new year, is expected to bring heavy rains to the state.
Last week, state officials warned that heavy rains falling on areas where vegetation has been shriveled by drought or burnt back by fires could lead to potential mudflows or landslides.
In October, a landslide trapped nearly 200 vehicles and closed an 13-kilometer (8-mile) stretch of State Route 58 in Kern County, about 175 kilometers (110 miles) north of downtown Los Angeles. At the time, local media reported at least a mile of the highway was clogged with mud up to nearly 2 meters (6 feet) deep.
“The drought, it’s just made this whole situation worse. … That area that slid [in October]? It’s not green. There’s not even grass on it. It’s so dead because of lack of rain,” Deborah Wong, a deputy director for the California Department of Transportation, told the Times last week. “If there’s no root structure to hold the mountain back, or at least the topsoil, it’s coming down.”