FALLBROOK, Calif. (CBSNewYork/AP) — In Southern California, strong winds have kicked up again, dealing another blow in the battle against several raging wildfires.
The largest fire, known as the Thomas fire, has destroyed hundreds of buildings while a new fire is gaining strength.
Retirement communities built on golf courses, thoroughbreds in race horse stables and other usually serene sites were engulfed by flames as the San Diego area became the latest front in California’s wildfire fight.
The Lilac fire broke out Thursday amid dry, hot, windy conditions across the region that would be extreme for any season, but are especially stunning just two weeks from winter.
It exceeded 6 square miles in a matter of hours and burned dozens of houses as it tore through the tightly packed Rancho Monserate Country Club community in the small city of Fallbrook, known for its avocado orchards and horse ranches.
In less than 24 hours since it started, the blaze has burned at least 85 homes and buildings and fast-moving winds have driven the flames across more than 4,000 acres.
“When the Santa Ana winds come in, there’s no stopping them,” said CAL Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser.
Three people were burned while escaping the flames, said Capt. Nick Schuler of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
PHOTOS: Southern California Wildfires
The fire also tore through a horse racing training center, where state authorities now estimate about 25 of the 500 horses stabled there were killed.
“It was just horrible, it was an inferno,” one woman said.
“Everybody’s just grabbing horses, we’re trying barns that burnt down over here,” Jennifer Bramlett told CBS News correspondent Carter Evans. “I think we’ve caught most of the loose ones. Everybody will work all night long. We’ll find them.”
Susan Dube’s two horses were safely rescued.
“He’s a little dehydrated, he’s got a tummy ache,” she said.
Winds subsided significantly early Friday morning, but forecasters said they would return later in the day.
Meanwhile, firefighters in Ventura, 130 miles to the north, tried to corral the largest and most destructive fire in the state, which has destroyed 430 buildings. The so-called Thomas Fire has scorched at least 130,000 acres since it broke out Monday.
In Los Angeles County, crews have gained ground against one fire and many of the evacuation orders have been lifted.
But nerves are wearing thin for residents anxious to see if their homes are still standing.
“We have tried unsuccessfully to come up here for the last three days, and we have been told nothing,” Sylmar resident Pat Wilkins said.
There’s more uncertainty ahead. Forecasters say the strong Santa Ana gusts are expected to stay through the weekend.
Additional resources are on the way to help. Already 1,300 members of the California National Guard are there, and the Air Force and Marines will be providing helicopters.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)