Kern County Fire Department Engineer Anthony Romero said the fire erupted at about 3 p.m. and quickly grew to more than 500 acres.
Officials said 150 structures were threatened and about 200 firefighters were on the scene along with waterdropping aircraft.
The small hill community known as Old West Ranch was evacuated. The area is about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.
"The wind has been a big factor. It's changing on us a lot," Romero said. "Now it's blowing from the southeast, going over a couple of ridges."
In northern Kern County, an eight-square-mile wildfire in Sequoia National Forest earlier destroyed six homes and forced the evacuation of a camp for juvenile offenders near Kernville.
The cause of the blaze, which began Monday, is under investigation.
In far northeastern California, crews have 30 percent containment of lightning fires that have burned 250 acres of timber in Lassen County.