Fire threat­ens stars’ homes

CAL­I­FOR­NIA: 230 000 FLEE AS FLAMES ENGULF LA

The Citizen (KZN) - - WORLD - Los An­ge­les

An in­ferno en­gulfed the Los An­ge­les re­gion, forc­ing more than 200 000 peo­ple to flee and threat­en­ing thou­sands of homes, in­clud­ing man­sions in the lux­u­ri­ous Bel-Air neigh­bour­hood.

Au­thor­i­ties is­sued a “pur­ple” alert – never used be­fore – be­cause of the ex­treme dan­ger, in­clud­ing winds that could reach 128km/h, se­verely lim­it­ing fire­fight­ing ef­forts.

“Yes­ter­day, it was fur­ther north, but this morn­ing we woke up and it was east of us,” said Los An­ge­les res­i­dent Pa­tri­cia Moore, 84, load­ing be­long­ings into the boot of her car.

“We heard the fire en­gines be­fore six o’clock this morn­ing and we said: ‘Maybe we should start get­ting our stuff into the car.’”

The flames have swal­lowed about 32 000 hectares in just over a day since the “Thomas” fire, cur­rently the state’s largest, broke out, leav­ing at least one dead in an area about 45 min­utes from down­town LA.

High winds caused another wave of wild­fires to erupt overnight on Tues­day, in­clud­ing one in Los An­ge­les’ af­flu­ent Bel-Air neigh­bour­hood.

The area bat­tled grid­locked traf­fic as res­i­dents fled ash and smoke that churned over the smoul­der­ing hill­side.

Fire crews worked to save lux­ury homes threat­ened by the flames.

Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti said about 230 000 peo­ple had been forced from their homes in Los An­ge­les and Ven­tura coun­ties.

“Very strong winds” blow­ing from the north­east to the south­west were caus­ing the fire to bal­loon, he said, warn­ing res­i­dents to be ready to flee at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

In Bel-Air, that’s ex­actly what they did. The “Skir­ball” fire quickly grew to engulf about 150 acres around the dis­trict, home to celebri­ties and bil­lion­aires, in­clud­ing SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and pop su­per­star Bey­once.

Police knocked on doors and used loud­speak­ers to make sure ev­ery­body left their man­sions.

“They told even us to leave,” one of the of­fi­cers said.

US me­dia re­ported that the BelAir Mor­aga Es­tate of me­dia ty­coon Ru­pert Murdoch, which con­tains a vine­yard, was threat­ened by the wild­fire.

The singer Lionel Richie can­celled a con­cert to help his ex-wife flee the area.

The pres­ti­gious Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los An­ge­les, also ended up evac­u­at­ing, af­ter stu­dents be­gan the day wear­ing masks.

Dozens of schools were closed, as was Santa Mon­ica Col­lege.

At least 4 000 fire­fight­ers were de­ployed across the en­tire fire zone – AFP

Pic­ture: EPA-EFE

KILLING POWER. A he­li­copter drops wa­ter over the fire in Bel-Air, Cal­i­for­nia. An out­break of sev­eral fires north of Los An­ge­les oc­curred as one of the strong­est Santa Ana winds fore­cast for the sea­son is on­go­ing and ex­pected to last sev­eral days.

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