(Recasts with evacuation as largest in state history, other details)
By Dana Ford
SAN DIEGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Fierce wildfires raged across Southern California on Tuesday, threatening more than 60,000 homes as night fell and forcing half a million people to flee in the state's largest evacuation.
California's worst fires in four years, driven by hot Santa Ana winds that have not relented for three days, tormented the San Diego area in the south and threatened mountain communities farther north.
Some 1,500 homes and other structures had been destroyed by the fires as of Tuesday evening and the 500,000 people evacuated in their path was the largest in the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.
"I'm worried for my baby, my house, my kids, everything." said Ana Ramirez, 30 and pregnant, who was taking shelter at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium along with her 4-year-old daughter.
Most of the destroyed homes were in the San Diego area, where four major wildfires burned unchecked and one person was killed on Sunday. Four other deaths were reported among the evacuees and more than three dozen people had been injured, including 18 firefighters.
Firefighters battled flames that shot more than 100 feet (30 meters) high, as they desperately tried to save homes in the fires' path.
As the firestorms raged past nightfall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked President George W. Bush to upgrade California's wildfires to a "major disaster," which would trigger federal help. Continued...