Wildfires ravage southern California
UNITED STATES: A wildfire erupted in Los Angeles’ exclusive Bel-Air suburb yesterday as yet another part of Southern California found itself under siege from an outbreak of wind-whipped blazes that have consumed multimillion-dollar houses and tract homes alike.
Hundreds of homes across the LA metropolitan area and beyond are feared destroyed since Tuesday, but firefighters are only slowly managing to make their way into some of the hard-hit areas.
As many as five fires have closed highways, schools and museums, shut down production of TV series and cast a hazardous haze over the region. About 200,000 people are under evacuation orders, but no deaths and only a few injuries have been reported.
From the beachside city of Ventura, where rows of homes were razed, to the rugged foothills north of Los Angeles, where stable owners had to evacuate horses in trailers, to Bel-Air, where the rich and famous have sweeping views of LA below, fierce Santa Ana winds sweeping in from the desert have fanned the flames and fears.
Air tankers that had been grounded because of high winds went up yesterday, dropping flame retardant. Firefighters rushed to attack the fires before the winds picked up again. They are expected to gust as high as 130kmh at night.
Before dawn, flames exploded on the steep slopes of Sepulveda Pass, closing a section of heavily travelled Interstate 405 and burning at least four homes in Bel-Air. Helicopters dropped water on hillside homes to protect them from the 60-hectare blaze.
Bel-Air was the site of a catastrophic fire in 1961 that burned nearly 500 homes. Burt Lancaster and Zsa Zsa Gabor were among the celebrities who lost their houses. Across the wide freeway from the fire, the Getty Centre art complex was closed to protect its collection from smoke damage. Many schools across Los Angeles cancelled classes because of poor air quality. Production of HBO’s Westworld and the CBS show SWAT were suspended because of the danger to cast and crew from two nearby fires.
In Ventura County northwest of LA, the biggest and most destructive of the wildfires grew to 262 square kilometres and had nearly reached the Pacific Ocean after starting 48km inland a day earlier.
A house is engulfed in flames as the Creek Fire, which has burned more than 4500 hectares and caused the evacuation of 115,000 residents, continues to spread in Los Angeles. As many as five wildfires have destroyed hundreds of homes across the LA metropolitan area and beyond.