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Sand Fire Destroys 18 Homes, Threatens 1,500 More

SANTA CLARITA ( — A massive brush fire in the mountains near Santa Clarita has burned more than 33,000 acres and destroyed 18 homes, fire officials said Sunday. At least one body was found in a charred vehicle.

The 33,117-acre blaze was threatening 1,500 other homes Sunday, fire officials said, and was 10-percent contained.

Officials warned winds could strengthen as the day goes on, creating more challenges for crews working in steep, inaccessible terrain at the edge of Angeles National Forest.

The fire erupted Friday afternoon in the city of Santa Clarita and spread southeastward into the Angeles National Forest, growing to 35 square miles Sunday.

The body was found on Iron Canyon Road -- officials theorized the man might have died trying to escape the blaze.

That street is not far from Little Tujunga Canyon Road where many of the homes that were destroyed were located.

CBS2's Greg Mills spoke with people who literally fled the area with just the clothes on their backs.

On the loss of her neighbor's property, one woman said, "Devastating. I can't even talk about it." said Jenelle Vouniozos, "I'll start crying."

Mills also spoke to one woman, Freda Santoro, who evacuated. Her husband, son-in-law and three horses left behind.

"If the flames get close," she said, "we're just going to let the horses loose. We can't just leave them there ... to perish."

She told Mills that she would just have to open the gates and let them run and hope they could fend for themselves. At last check, Mills said her home was fine and not in any danger.

Despite firefighters' efforts, the blaze on Saturday destroyed sets at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, which has Old West-style buildings used for movie locations.

The Wildlife Waystation, a private sanctuary for rescued exotic animals, was evacuated Saturday. The facility had about 400 animals on 160 acres within the national forest. Its Facebook page is appealing for flatbed and enclosed trucks as well as an air-conditioned warehouse to keep the animals cool.

A smoke advisory was in effect for the San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley and other parts of LA County. Smoke was visible Saturday morning across much of the Southland.

Fire officials say more than 1,600 firefighters were battling the flames Sunday. One firefighter has sustained minor injuries from the firefight.

"It's not a one-direction type of fire," said Nathan Judy, a spokesman for the Angeles National Forest. "It's going in different directions depending on which way the wind is blowing. It's doing what it wants."

Evacuation orders were in place for about 1,500 homes Sunday.

Officials had said some Sand Canyon residents would be allowed to return home at around 1 p.m. Sunday, but later decided to extend the mandatory evacuation orders due to shifting winds.

Some Acton residents were later told to evacuate.

RELATED LINK: Road Closures, Evacuations Ordered For Sand Fire

RV park manager Paul Kelly marveled at how close the flames came to his home.

"You could see the fire at the top of all these mountains," Kelly said, "20 feet up in the air; it absolutely looked like the apocalypse."

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Several streets were closed so firefighters could move around more efficiently.

Listen to KNX 1070 for the latest traffic information.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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