Hollywood Blaze Spreads, Causing Panic

Smoke fills the skies above the Hollywood sign as seen from the Hollywood freeway, just north of downtown Los Angeles, as firefighters battle a wildfire Friday, March 30, 2007. (AP Photos/ Los Angeles Daily News, John McCoy) ** LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT, VENTURA COUNTY STAR OUT, MAGS OUT, NO SALES ** AP/L.A. Daily News, John McCoy

Residents of 200 homes were ordered to evacuate Saturday as a wildfire burned out of control in hills and canyons in this city east of Los Angeles, authorities said.

The fire burned about 1,400 acres, or 2.1 square miles, and had burned a shed and the roof of a house in the area where residents were being evacuated, said San Bernardino County Fire spokeswoman Angie Samayoa.

Most residents have been allowed to return to their homes in the Southern California city of Hesperia. A San Bernardino County fire spokeswoman says the fire has stopped growing. It had burned out of control for much of the day Saturday.

The blaze, about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is five-percent contained and authorities expect full containment by Sunday night.

The cause was under investigation, and about 400 firefighters were fighting the blaze. Hesperia is about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

"It's increased substantially," Samayoa said. "Firefighters are doing their very best to protect these homes."

On Friday, flames allegedly ignited by two teens sent smoke seeping into the Warner Bros. studios and towering high in the sky behind the famous Hollywood sign before losing intensity.

The 150-acre blaze started near a corporate housing complex east of Universal City, south of the Warner Bros. studios complex in Burbank.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said two teens from Illinois were in custody and told authorities they caused the fire.

"They've admitted that they started this fire," the mayor said at a news conference. He said they were "old enough to know what they were doing."

The teens walked into a Burbank police station in midafternoon and were turned over to Los Angeles police Friday, police Lt. Ron Caruso said.

The 16- and 17-year-old boys, who were visiting Los Angeles with their parents, had been staying at the housing complex, the mayor said.

They have been arrested on suspicion of reckless setting of a fire and released to their parents, said Ron Myers, a fire department spokesman. They could be charged after prosecutors review the case Monday, he said.

For several hours smoke roiled into the sky behind the famous Hollywood sign that stands on the south face of the hills, but the flames made no move down the south face and by late afternoon the landmark appeared to be well out of any danger.

Nonetheless, dozens of people gathered at the foot of the hills to take pictures of the sign and smoke.

"If it burns, we would be losing an icon," said Russ Mitchell, a Los Angeles resident.

Friday, Scott Rowe, vice president of corporate communications for Warner Bros. Entertainment said the company was monitoring the situation.

"The studio is fairly filled with smoke at the moment," he said. "It's at our back door. I think a couple of our entrances have been closed at this point and we're operating normally but that could change any minute."

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that Southern California is a tinderbox. Rainfall has been far below normal this year, and now the fire season is starting far earlier than normal.

The region had an extremely dry winter with little rainfall, leaving much of the area parched. Humidity also was low, about 10 percent, which makes vegetation burn more easily.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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