California Residents Hit By Wildfire

A wildfire that destroyed five homes and threatened foothill neighbourhoods east of Los Angeles has been halted from advancing after winds eased.

The fire swept through 690 hectares of brush in the San Gabriel Mountains early on Thursday but by nightfall it was no longer advancing and was 30 per cent contained.

“The weather co-operated quite a bit today. We didn’t get the wind … that we thought,” Los Angeles County fire Deputy Chief John Tripp said.

Authorities planned to reopen evacuated Glendora neighbourhoods, allowing back some of the 2000 people ordered to leave the area.

However, fire engines would remain to guard the area overnight, Tripp added.

The National Weather Service said a red-flag warning of extreme fire danger would remain in effect into Friday evening because of low humidity and the chance of winds gusting to 50km/h in the foothills and canyons.

The wildfire, which erupted early Thursday, damaged 17 homes, garages, barns and other buildings, Tripp said.

At least 10 renters were left homeless when the fire destroyed rental units on the historic grounds of a retreat that once was the summer estate of the Singer sewing machine family.

Statues of Jesus and Mary stood unharmed near the blackened ruins and the main 1920s mansion was spared.

Three men in their 20s, including a homeless man, were arrested on suspicion of recklessly starting the blaze by tossing paper into a campfire in the Angeles National Forest, just north of Glendora.

Glendora Chief Tim Staab said the men were trying to keep warm and the wildfire appears to have been an accident.

The men could face either state or federal charges, depending on whether the campfire was on federal forest land, he added.