California wildfire threatening thousands of homes near L.A. now 80% contained

Authorities cautiously lifted some evacuation orders but warned serious challenges remained Sunday as crews worked to stop the progress of a brush fire that torched the populated hills northwest of Los Angeles.

'The fire is on the side of a mountain, it's not on any road, and we are trying to get firefighters up there'

Firefighters douse a brush fire in the foothills outside of Calabasas, Calif. on Saturday. (Richard Vogel/Associated Press)

All evacuations have been called off for homes in the hills northwest of Los Angeles after a day of major progress on a wildfire.

The fire near the affluent and semi-rural enclave of Calabasas was 80 per cent contained as of early Sunday evening — up from 30 per cent at daybreak.

This photo was taken in Woodland Hills, Calif., and shows smoke from the fire in nearby Calabasas. (Murtaza Ezzy via/Associated Press)
Most evacuations, including all of those called for in Calabasas, had already been cancelled. Los Angeles County fire officials said at a briefing that evacuees from nearby Topanga would be allowed to return starting at 6 p.m. PT.

Sheriff's officials said an estimated 3,000 homes were threatened and about 5,000 residents were evacuated at the fire's height Saturday, which was sparked by a car crash that downed power lines.

Three homes were damaged by the blaze, but the extent of the damage wasn't clear, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Keith Mora said earlier Sunday. Other buildings, including some at a city park, also were damaged.

Fifty-foot-high flames erupted on ridges and embers turned trees into torches Saturday afternoon. The fire flared as Southern California sweltered under high temperatures.

Flames raced through drought-dry brush and came within metres of million-dollar homes. The smoke could be seen across the region and a dusting of ash rained down on neighbourhoods more than 50 kilometres away.

But temperatures on Sunday hovered around 26 C — down from more than 37 C a day earlier.

More than 500 firefighters, aided by bulldozers and water-dropping helicopters were on the scene over the weekend, and three firefighters sustained minor injuries.

Firefighters watch as a brush fire burns hillside in Calabasas, Calif, on June 4, 2016. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)