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A wind-blasted wildfire slashed through the city's northern foothills Saturday, sending thousands of residents fleeing in the dark, forcing evacuation of a hospital and destroying an untold number of homes.

The fire broke out late Friday in the foothill community of Sylmar on the edge of the Angeles National Forest and quickly spread across 2,600 acres — more than 4 square miles — as it was driven by Santa Ana wind gusting as high as 76 mph.

Dozens of homes were destroyed, officials said, and aerial footage from television helicopters showed rows of houses gutted in just in one subdivision.

Fire crews had to abandon a mobile home park that was burning out of control.

"We have almost total devastation here in the mobile park," Los Angeles Fire Capt. Steve Ruda said of the Oakridge Mobile Home Park. "I can't even read the street names because the street signs are melting."

At an evacuation center, Oakridge resident Wendy Vannenberg said the park had about 600 residences, many of them housing senior citizens. The same park had been evacuated during a fire last month.

"Last time I took all of my grandparents' things. They had brought over them from Germany after World War II," said Vannenberg, 46. "This time, I didn't really grab anything. I don't know why."


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