Fire threatens stars’ homes
CALIFORNIA: 230 000 FLEE AS FLAMES ENGULF LA
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
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.