Heavy smoke spreading from fast-growing fire near Los Angeles

(Reuters) - Evacuation orders were lifted on Sunday for residents near a fast-moving brush fire east of Los Angeles that had threatened more than 200 homes overnight, even though heavy smoke was still menacing the area, fire department officials said.

The blaze, named the "Highway Fire," had grown to about 980 acres and was 25 percent contained, according to an afternoon update posted on the Riverside County Fire Department website.

Residents sensitive to smoke were cautioned to stay inside as windy conditions blew the haze around the Prado Dam region, about an hour's drive east of Los Angeles in drought-stricken California.

The smoke was affecting communities from Anaheim to Chino Hills and western San Bernardino County, said Captain Liz Brown of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CalFire).

She compared conditions to heavy smog. Cooler temperatures forecast could help efforts to contain the fire, which was first reported in trees late on Saturday, she said.

The region's drought has created conditions for fires not typically seen until later in the summer and fall, she noted.

"We’re seeing bigger fires early on," she said.

No injuries have been reported. Nearly 700 firefighters and crew were involved in battling the blaze, Brown said.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere and Letitia Stein; Editing by Jane Merriman, Frances Kerry and Eric Walsh)