Firefighters struggled Tuesday night to contain wind-whipped flames that scorched hundreds of acres in Griffith Park, forced the evacuation of some of Los Angeles' best-known landmarks and raced toward hillside homes in Los Feliz, prompting a hasty evacuation.

A wall of flames raced across ridges and jumped fire lines late in the evening as the fire drew closer to homes and the Griffith Observatory.

Hundreds of firefighters and five water-dropping helicopters rushed to Los Angeles' landmark park - a mix of wilderness, cultural venues, horse and hiking trails and recreational facilities set on more than 4,000 acres on the hills between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.

Late Tuesday, authorities called for a mandatory evacuation of homes along the park's southern edge as the fire burned out of control after dusk.

The fire was the park's worst in at least three decades and was the latest of several to strike the Hollywood Hills in what has been the driest year on record.


Officials had expected that as night fell, moist air would flow in from the ocean, aiding their efforts. Instead, the hot winds continued, shifted direction and sent flames south toward the upscale homes in the hills above Los Feliz Boulevard.

By 10 p.m., about 300 people had been evacuated and the fire had consumed more than 300 acres.

"It just exploded," said Michael Widman, 46, who lives on Commonwealth Avenue and was packing up pictures and computers as he prepared to leave. "I don't see how they're going to knock it down."

A 20-year-old man described by authorities as a person of interest reportedly emerged from the brush near the golf course with burns. He was listed in stable condition at the Grossman Burn Center at Sherman Oaks Hospital.

The man told arson detectives that he was sitting in the hills above the Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Course and touched off the blaze by accident with matches, sources close to the investigation told the Los Angeles Times.