Large SoCal Wildfire Still Raging

A forest firefighter turns away to protect himself from the intense heat as the Day Fire, jumps Lockwood Valley road in Ventura, Calif. on Tuesday Sept. 26, 2006.
AP Photo/Mike Meadows
Officials urged residents in rural mountain communities to evacuate as they battled one of California's largest and longest-lasting wildfires.

Thick smoke turned the sky gray and purplish Tuesday as flames rolled through pines and juniper trees on slopes of Los Padres National Forest, where more than 3,800 firefighters have battled the blaze since it started on Labor Day.

"This is what we're calling 'the badlands.' I don't know if you've been up there, but it's super steep," a firefighter told CBS News.

Fire trucks, bulldozers and water tankers guarded homes within sight of the massive fire Tuesday. No occupied homes had been lost to the fire, which burned some 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Overall, containment was just 42 percent.

"The problem is we've had extremely dry fuels," fire spokesman Dan Bastion said Wednesday. "Brush and trees will be ignited by the heat of the fire, so there's a domino effect going on."

Six unoccupied buildings were destroyed, including a modular home, a cabin, barns and camp trailers, said Bastion.

Authorities recommended evacuation of several remote Ventura County communities arrayed along roads west of Interstate 5.

The same fire that has plagued Southern California for nearly a month jumped fire breaks on Tuesday, reports CBS News correspondent Vince Gonzales. Despite the best efforts of nearly 4,000 firefighters, since Labor Day, the blaze has scorched more than 200 square miles — an area roughly the size of the city of Chicago.

"It sounded like a jet engine," Forest Service firefighter Greg Valencia said of a towering wall of flame he saw blow past a home, leaving it unscathed.

Water- and retardant-dropping helicopters and aircraft attacked the flames from the sky. On the ground, crews staged equipment at the widely spaced homes for structure protection. At almost every house there was at least one engine and a few firefighters clearing brush, hosing down roofs and decks. A bulldozer plowed a firebreak around one home.

Dale King was helping firefighters clear brush around his home when flames roared across the edge of his 5-acre property.