Video has surfaced of a heroic man rescuing a rabbit from ferocious wildfires on the side of a Southern California road.

ABC7 said the man pulled his car over on the road near La Conchita to save the animal's life.

Wildfires continued to rage across Southern California, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee as forecasters and officials warned that dangerous fires could endanger the region for days.

The man pulled over on a Southern California road to rescue a rabbit from ferocious wildfire.
The man pulled over on a Southern California road to rescue a rabbit from ferocious wildfire.

The wave of fires that broke out early this week spread quickly and mercilessly. The largest blaze expanded across nearly 300sq km - a region almost as big as Wellington.


Emergency responders hurried to evacuate residents, protect homes and close roads across the region, even as authorities warned that the biggest fire was "still out of control" early Wednesday and keeping crews from entering the area.

This largest fire, known as the Thomas Fire, had erupted in Ventura County northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The Thomas Fire tore across 26,300ha by Wednesday morning, and the blaze destroyed hundreds of homes, threatened 12,000 structures and forced 27,000 people to evacuate, officials said. Most of those who fled were left wondering whether their homes were among those destroyed.

More than 1000 firefighters were in the area, county officials said, but they could not enter the fire area because of the "intensity of the fire". Stretches of cities and communities were evacuated, and numerous schools across the area were shut down.

In Los Angeles County, firefighters rushed to fight a pair of blazes that broke out on Tuesday. The Creek Fire north of downtown Los Angeles burned across 4450ha by Tuesday night, and the smaller Rye Fire churned through 2800ha by Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday morning, authorities rushed to yet another blaze, this one in the city of Los Angeles. The growing Skirball Fire prompted a wave of evacuations in Bel Air and shut down Interstate 405, the famously busy freeway. The fire is raging near the Getty Centre, which kept its doors closed on Wednesday.

The fires across the southern part of the state tore through neighbourhoods, burning cars and homes, sending thick waves of smoke into the air and leaving waves of ash and destruction. Thousands of people also lost power.

Govenor Jerry Brown declared states of emergency in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and his office said the blazes threatened thousands of homes.

"It's critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so," Brown said.

So far, officials have not announced any deaths because of the fires, but they stressed that people could die if they did not heed evacuation orders.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency and said that more than 30 buildings had burned. He also said that about 150,000 people lived in evacuation areas.

"We have lost structures; we have not lost lives. Do not wait. Leave your homes."

Three firefighters in Los Angeles were injured and taken to hospital, all in stable condition, according to local officials who did not elaborate on their injuries. A battalion chief in Ventura was injured in a traffic crash but was expected to recover.

The coming days could bring more wildfires, authorities warned. Charlie Beck, the Los Angeles police chief, said the region was facing "a multiday event", adding: "This will not be the only fire."

These latest wildfires come during a brutal year for California, burning just months after deadly blazes in the state's wine country killed dozens of people and razed thousands of buildings. Wildfires need fuel, dry weather and an ignition source - and the fires this week had ready access to all three.

The fire's fuel was a year in the making. After an epic, multi-year drought, California finally got the rain and snow it needed last winter, and that allowed vegetation to rebound. The hills turned green and the brush thickened. But as the weather turned dry, it created plentiful fuel, which is now feeding the wildfires.

Cal Fire said it has moved resources from the northern part of the state to the south and prepared aircraft and fire equipment. Tim Chavez with Cal Fire said a lack of rain in the region in recent months has made the area particularly susceptible to a wildfire.

"No rain came in September, October and November in Southern California. So we have incredibly desiccated dry fuels," he said.

The National Weather Service said the risks could last through Friday, issuing "red flag" warnings of heightened fire risk for Los Angeles and Ventura counties through Friday. A combination of low humidity and surging winds could lead to "very rapid fire growth" and "extreme fire behaviour", the service warned.

Aerial images showed huge clouds of thick smoke billowing around the Los Angeles region.

Some people driven from their homes by the fires said they saw the danger that loomed.

"This is life in Southern California. This is where we live," said Mark Gennaro, who was told his home of 12 years was destroyed. "I stand on that back hill and I see all that brush and I'm like, 'Something's gonna happen at some point'."

Those who escaped the fires reported apocalyptic scenes at their homes and when they tried to leave.

"The trees within the complex were already on fire," Lance Korthals, 66, who fled his apartment complex in Ventura. "I had to drive around the flames that were already flowing into the road."

Gena Aguayo, 53, of Ventura, said she saw fire "coming down the mountain". When Lorena Lara evacuated with her children on Tuesday morning, she said the wind was so strong it was blowing ashes into her home.

"I've never experienced something like that," said Lara, 42. "Maybe in Santa Barbara, but we didn't expect it here."