Southern California firefighters battled back a series of sprawling, brush-fueled wildfires on Friday, including one that had blazed a trail to the beach in Ventura County overnight and was pushing toward the upscale city of Malibu, officials said.
At least six fires of various sizes have flared up as high temperatures, low humidity and brittle brush have left the state a veritable tinderbox over the last two days.
The so-called Springs Fire, made worse by howling Santa Ana winds and unusually dry vegetation, was within "seven or eight miles" of Malibu at 2 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET), Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash said.
"We've got hot, dirty, unglamorous firefighting work going on right now, guys with shovels trying to scratch out lines on the ground," Nash said early Friday. "We've got those guys on these steep hillsides in the dark with nothing but the light of the fire and a flashlight."
Dry winds from offshore were expected to bring gusts of 40 to 50 miles per hour to the Southern California region on Friday, with the winds expected to drop and temperatures to cool into the high 60s later in the day, according to the Weather Channel. Warnings remained in effect as winds stoked the flames, the National Weather Service reported.
The Springs Fire grew to 10,000 acres and was 10 percent contained as of early Friday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention.
An eight-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway was shut down for a time on Thursday night as bright orange flames raced down scrubby hillsides toward the Pacific Ocean.
"We have conditions that are very dramatic, very dangerous for firefighters. This fire is growing," said Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Tom Kruschke. "We are asking members of the public to be very aware: This is very dangerous. This is still a moving fire. If you were asked to evacuate, it will be awhile before you are allowed in. And if at one point you are uncomfortable, please leave the area. It's not safe to stay."
Evacuations took place Thursday, and as of Friday morning 15 homes had been damaged. More than 2,000 homes and 100 commercial properties were under threat from the fire, Nash said, adding that the numbers could grow as Friday wore on.