Wild­fires rav­age south­ern Cal­i­for­nia

The Dominion Post - - World -

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.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

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.

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