News & Politics

The California Wildfire Has Reduced Several Los Angeles Suburbs to Ash

Firefighters are racing against time to control multiple blazes.

Wildfires blazing through California have entered the heart of Los Angeles as authorities warned of an “extreme fire danger” across the city.

Firefighters in the affluent Bel-Air neighbourhood battled to save multimillion-dollar estates in the path of the flames, which have destroyed homes near the Getty museum in America’s second-largest city.

Video and photographs posted on social media showed hillsides above busy roads covered in flames, rows of houses reduced to ash, and firefighters spraying water on walls of fire.

The largest blaze, the Thomas fire, has covered more than 95,000 acres, destroying more than 150 homes and threatening thousands more in Ventura, about 50 miles (80 km) north-west of Los Angeles.

A woman was found dead after a car crash in an area under an evacuation order, the authorities said Thursday.

With winds forecast to reach 80mph, officials have warned the worst could be yet to come.

An alert sent by the countrywide emergency system in Los Angeles said: “Strong winds overnight creating extreme fire danger.”

The fear is that the winds, blowing westward from the California desert, could stoke several blazes burning in the Los Angeles area that have already forced an estimated 200,000 people to evacuate.

“We are in the beginning of a protracted wind event,” Ken Pimlott, the director of the California department of forestry and fire protection, told the Los Angeles Times. “There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds.”

The Skirball fire, which erupted early on Wednesday, burned about 500 acres near large estates in Bel-Air, scorching part of a winery owned by Rupert Murdoch.

It erupted before dawn in the Sepulveda Pass, just up Interstate 405 from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), which cancelled classes for the rest of the day.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second largest with more than 640,000 students, said it closed at least 265 of its nearly 1,100 schools on Thursday.

Dozens of schools were also closed in Ventura County. The school district, with nearly 17,000 students, said it hoped to reopen on Monday. In the city of Ventura, along the coast, where hundreds of structures were destroyed, blazes also killed more than two dozen horses at a stable.

The deputy fire chief, Charles Butler, said firefighters and aircraft had stopped the spread of the blaze in Bel-Air and were attempting to contain it before the winds returned. 

He said four homes had been destroyed and 11 damaged, while about 700 properties, an apartment building and a school had been ordered to evacuate. Paris Hilton was among those who said they had fled the fire.

The Los Angeles mayor declared a local state of emergency on Wednesday morning because of the Skirball fire. Eric Garcetti told a news conference: “These are days that break your heart. These are also days that show the resilience of our city.”

In the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles, the Creek fire destroyed at least 30 homes, blackened more than 12,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 2,500 homes and a convalescent centre.

Another fire, known as the Rye, threatened more than 5,000 homes and structures north-west of Los Angeles.

According to the LA Times, the LAPD have asked people to avoid using navigation apps on their phones because drivers were being directed towards open roads that were traffic-free because they were on fire.

Footage of a man appearing to coax a rabbit out of the fires near La Conchita on Wednesday night went viral on social media.

Three firefighters were injured and said to be in a stable condition in hospital, the Los Angeles fire department said.

Below: Commuter drives through raging wildfire in California – dashcam video

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