Wind-whipped wildfires are continuing to scorch the Los Angeles area, with a trio of existing infernos expanding overnight and a newly ignited blaze forcing evacuations in the upscale Bel Air neighbourhood of Los Angeles.
After spending Tuesday battling the sprawling Thomas Fire in Ventura County and the fast-growing Creek Fire and Rye Fire in northern Los Angeles County, firefighters were scrambling to combat the newly named Skirball Fire in one of the tonier Los Angeles areas.
Driven by winds blowing at 25 miles per hour or more, the Skirball fire began early on Wednesday morning and within hours had burned across some 50 acres. Mandatory evacuation orders drove people out of multi-million dollar homes as the flames shut down parts of a major north-south highway and approached the Getty Center, a museum. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency in the early afternoon.
As with the fires engulfing other parts of southern California, the conflagration fed on dry brush that is a legacy of a recent multiyear drought. Fire officials said the Skirball fire was racing through dense brush in the hills.
“It’s been years since anything here has burned at all,” Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Cody Weireter told reporters.
Stunning images shared by commuters showed cars ringed by glowing red hills, plumes of smoke pouring into the sky.
The new conflagration only added to the challenge for firefighters locked in a multi-front fight against flames that had burned nearly 100,000 acres as Wednesday dawned.