Gusting winds and hot weather are threatening to spread a massive wildfire that is burning in southern California.

In just 30 hours, the blaze, which began in Ventura County, burnt through an area of 15 square miles (39 sq km) north of Los Angeles. Homes have been wrecked and families forced to flee.

Some 2,000 homes are under threat as winds blowing at up to 45mph are forecast to hit, pushing the flames towards the upscale coastal city of Malibu.

"Where it's burning right now, the population is mostly ranches and camps and rural-type properties," Bill Nash, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department, said.

"But it doesn't have to go very far to get to some expensive homes and more populated areas. It's burning down the mountainside toward Malibu."

More than 900 firefighters have been battling the flames.

"We've got hot, dirty, unglamorous firefighting work going on - guys with shovels trying to scratch out lines on the ground," Nash said.

Winds are expected to taper and temperatures may by by evening, forecasters said.

The wildfires started 10 miles and reached the Pacific Coast Highway within 12 hours.