Conditions ripe for spread of wildfire near Los Angeles

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - In the west, a fast-moving fire is eating up part of the Angeles National Forest in California. It's burned five-and-a-half square miles so far.

The wild fire keeps extending its grip. Long fingers of flames stretched up mountain sides, aggressively blazing paths deep into the Angeles national Forrest. The push back by firefighters was just as aggressive.

"We have not got a lot of rain this last winter," said firefighter Nathan Judy with the U.S. Forest Service. "Everything is really dry out here."

About 500 firefighters are battling the blaze, the heat and steep terrain, trying to contain the fire and snuff it out.

They're encircling it on the ground and hitting it hard from the air. A big DC-10 drops 10,000 gallons of retardant with each pass.

"Access is our biggest challenge," Judy said. "The steep, rugged terrain is hard to get into. It's sloped from 40 to 90 degrees. To get them in there safely is pretty hard."

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Firefighters don't yet know what ignited this fire, but once it started Sunday afternoon, it spread rapidly. It forced the evacuation of a trailer park and resort.

Conditions are perfect for this fire to spread. The vegetation is bone dry providing plenty of fuel. And the wind is expected to pick up again Monday evening.

Right now this fire is moving away from residential areas, but three years ago the Station Fire in this very same forest burned 250 square miles and 89 homes. So no one will rest easy until this fire is out.

  • Bill Whitaker

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