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Last Updated: Monday, 12 March 2007, 05:10 GMT
Brush fire hits California south
A firefighter hoses down the brush in Orange County, California
Whipping winds are making firefighting difficult
A brush fire fuelled by strong winds and dry vegetation has scorched thousands of acres of land in California, fire officials have said.

At least 500 families were forced to evacuate their homes in the area and some three houses caught fire.

The fire broke out in the Anaheim Hills area of California, some 35 miles (56km) south-east of Los Angeles.

Police are investigating reports that a stolen car, torched to hide the evidence may have sparked the blaze.

"This is a very dangerous fire fight," Orange County fire chief Ed Fleming said.

"The terrain is quite rugged, with homes on top of ridges, and the fire picks up speed as it heads up the hill."

Red flag alert

More than 800 firefighters have been deployed but the high winds, reaching speeds of 35mph (56km/h) were making their task difficult.

Helicopters and planes also doused the fire with water and flame retardant from the air.

The authorities have put the affected area under a red flag alert.

Such fires are a regular occurrence for California residents.

Many of them will be spending their evening at the local schools and community centres that have opened their doors to people forced to abandon their homes.

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The damage caused by the brush fire

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