A dangerous new wildfire has erupted in the Bel-Air area of Los Angeles, as firefighters battle three other destructive blazes across Southern California.
Flames exploded before dawn on the steep slopes of the east side of Sepulveda Pass, which carries heavily travelled Interstate 405 through the Santa Monica Mountains where ridge tops are covered with expensive homes. At least two could be seen burning.
Hundreds of firefighters battled flames on the ground as aircraft dropped water and retardant near neighbourhoods on the east side of the pass. Commuter traffic snarled in the pass and beyond.
When firefighters told Maurice Kaboud to leave his home in Bel-Air, he decided to stay and protect his home. The 59-year-old stood in the backyard of his multimillion-dollar home as fires raged nearby.
“God willing, this will slow down so the firefighters can do their job,” Kaboud said.
Hundreds of homes burned in the area during the famous Bel-Air Fire of 1961. The Getty Center art complex, on the west side of the pass, employs extensive fire protection methods. Its website says it was closed to protect its collection from smoke.
Elsewhere, use of firefighting aircraft has been constrained by the same winds that have spread the fires.
The planes and helicopters essential to taming wildfires have been mostly grounded because it’s too dangerous to fly them in the strong wind. Tuesday saw gusts of over 80 km/h.
‘Really, Mother Nature’s going to decide when we have the ability to put it out.’
– Mark Lorenzen, Ventura County fire chief
Commanders hoped to have them back in the air Wednesday to battle flames that spurred evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people, destroyed nearly 200 homes and remained mostly out control.
“The prospects for containment are not good,” Ventura County fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a news conference Tuesday. “Really, Mother Nature’s going to decide when we have the ability to put it out.”
Southern California’s Santa Ana winds have long contributed to some of the region’s most disastrous wildfires. They blow from the inland toward the Pacific Ocean, speeding up as they squeeze through mountain passes and canyons.
The largest and most destructive of the fires, a 262-square-kilometre wildfire in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, had nearly reached the Pacific on Tuesday night after starting 48…