SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- California's newest huge wildfire advanced on thousands of homes Wednesday, feeding on drought-stricken vegetation and destroying an untold number of structures as it expanded to nearly 47 square miles.
Authorities could not say how many homes were destroyed in the first furious hours, but they prepared communities for bad news.
"There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing," San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said after a morning flight over a scene he described as "devastating."
"It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn't seen before," he said.
Flames continued to climb the flanks of the San Gabriel Mountains toward the town of Wrightwood, where authorities said that only half of the community's 4,500 residents had complied with evacuation orders.
Officials estimated that more than 34,000 homes and some 82,000 people were under evacuation warnings.
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