Authorities have found a burned body as two massive wildfires raged in the California hills and canyons prompting the evacuation of thousands of homes.

The body was discovered Saturday evening outside a home on Iron Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, and detectives are trying to determine whether the person was killed by the blaze or another cause, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt Rob Hahnlein said.

The home also may have burned, he said.

The area was among those ordered evacuated as the fire raged through brush withered by days of 38C temperatures as Southern California sweltered through a heat wave.

Since Friday, the fire, propelled by gusty winds, has burned up and down ridgelines, blackening 80sq km of brush on the edge of Santa Clarita and the Angeles National Forest.

It was 10 per cent contained late Saturday night.

After flames swept through an evacuated neighbourhood, firefighters reported that some buildings had been engulfed, but it was not immediately clear whether they were homes, outbuildings or garages, said Nathan Judy, a spokesman for the US Fire Service.

The area was still unsafe, he said late Saturday night.

‘You’ve still got hotspots in that area, a lot of smouldering stuff,’ and trees that might fall because their roots had burned, Judy said.

Despite firefighters’ efforts, the blaze destroyed sets at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, which has Old West-style buildings used for movie locations.

‘It was a horrific firestorm,’ owner Derek Hunt told KABC-TV. ‘ At some point, you know you’re defeated and you have to step back and save what you can. We fought as best as we could.’

Smoke and ash from the fire cast a pall over neighbouring Los Angeles. Air quality officials advised people with respiratory problems to stay indoors.

Bengal tigers and a mountain lion were among several hundred animals evacuated Saturday as flames partially ringed the Wildlife Waystation, a nonprofit sanctuary for rescued exotic creatures in Sylmar.

The fire was 20 per cent contained Saturday night. More than 900 firefighters and water-dropping helicopters battled the flames overnight on several fronts.

‘It’s not a one-direction type of fire,’ Judy said. ‘ It’s going in different directions depending on which way the wind is blowing. It’s doing what it wants.’

Sunday’s forecast called for low humidity with afternoon and evening winds gusting to 40km/h or more that could again fan the fire’s explosive growth.

AP

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Authorities have found a burned body as two massive wildfires raged in the California hills and canyons prompting the evacuation of thousands of homes. The body was discovered Saturday evening outside a home on Iron Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, and detectives are trying to...