Two firefighters battling a massive wildfire to keep it from consuming thousands of homes in Los Angeles County were killed when their vehicle was pushed down the mountainside after being overrun by fast-moving flames.
The blaze that has scorched 71 square miles in the Angeles National Forest was only about 5 percent contained late Sunday, a day when the fire doubled itself in size.
Mandatory evacuations were in effect for neighborhoods and towns north of Los Angeles. At least 18 homes were destroyed in the fire and firefighters expected to find many more, authorities said.
Anxious residents were moving families and livestock out of the way of the devastating blaze that experts say could again double itself over the next few days.
Those killed in the crash were identified as Fire Capt. Tedmund Hall, 47, and firefighter Specialist Arnaldo Quinones, 35.
On Sunday a tearful county Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bryant said: “We ask for your understanding, for your patience as we move through this difficult time, and please, prayers for the families of our two brothers that we lost.”
“Our hearts are heavy as we are tragically reminded of the sacrifices our firefighters and their families make daily to keep us safe,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement.