California fire officials say the largest blaze ever recorded in the state is now more than half contained.

But the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Thursday it will still take several weeks to fully surround the massive wildfire in Northern California because it’s burning in steep terrain that’s hard to reach.

Cal Fire said the Mendocino Complex blaze that has charred 1,230 square kilometres of brush and timber is 51 per cent contained.

Onlookers are silhouetted against the reflection of a wildfire burning in the Cleveland National Forest in Lake Elsinorelate Wednesday. Evacuations have been ordered for several small mountain communities in the area. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

In Southern California, a forest fire that has prompted evacuations in canyon and foothill neighbourhoods south of Los Angeles continues to grow with minimal containment.

Flames are creeping down hillsides toward homes in the city of Lake Elsinore, where crews are prepared to provide structure protection.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of felony arson, one count of felony threat to terrorize, and one count of misdemeanor resisting arrest for Southern California’s Holy Fire. (The Orange County Sheriff’s Department CA/Handout via Reuters)

At least 20,000 foothill and canyon residents have evacuated as the growing wildfire churns through the Cleveland National Forest south of Los Angeles.

Fire spokesperson Kate Kramer said Thursday that the majority of the 39-square-kilometre blaze is burning in wildland areas. But officials are concerned about flames creeping down hillsides toward neighbourhoods. The fire is just five per cent contained.

Kramer said crews with air support are also trying to keep flames away from Santiago Peak, where critical communication infrastructure for the region is located.

Officials said heavy smoke settling on surrounding communities is creating unhealthy conditions.

In connection with the so-called Holy Fire, Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of felony arson, one count of felony threat to terrorize, and one count of misdemeanour resisting arrest.

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