A dangerous new wildfire erupted in Los Angeles on Wednesday, threatening the pricey Bel Air neighborhood, but it was just one of multiple brush blazes that have scorched the region this week, chasing people from their homes, destroying structures and lighting up the nighttime sky like a Hollywood stage.
As many as five fires have closed highways, schools and museums. About 200,000 people were under evacuation orders.
More than two dozen horses died at a boarding stable in the foothills north of Los Angeles.
According to the Associated Press, the newest raging inferno erupted on the slopes of Sepulveda Pass, where Interstate 405 carries traffic past expensive homes, some of which already were ablaze.
That fire, called the Skirball, for Skirball Center Drive, was threatening several cultural centers, including the Getty Museum.
A state of emergency was declared by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had made the same declaration just 24 hours earlier for the Creek Fire near Sylmar.
UCLA officials said they were operating on generators because the grid had failed there, and local schools were closed down.
Maurice Kaboud, whose multimillion dollar home already was in the reach of raging fires, said, “God willing, this will slow down so the firefighters can do their job.”
Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, whose business interests take him periodically to Los Angeles, warned his listeners: “This is not out in the valley. This is Hollywood. This is L.A. This is bad.”
He pointed out Southern California fires usually are in the spring to summer.
But Wednesday’s blaze, he said, “is Los Angeles, this is Bel-Air, this is Brentwood, potentially, this is Beverly Hills, potentially, Hollywood.”
“I take the route [Interstate 405] when I’m out there. This is the route that I take going to work every morning at 5:30, 5 a.m. straight out of Beverly Hills, hit the 405, zip up there. I’m not gonna tell you the final destination, ’cause that means the next time I’m there, there will be crowds outside the building. But that’s the highway I take to get where I’m going,” he said.
Bloomberg reported Rupert Murdoch’s Moraga vineyard was in the evacuation zone for the fire, and the series of of blazes ranged from Ventura, an hour’s drive north, to the suburbs of Los Angeles.
The report said no one answered the phone at Murdoch’s estate, where the media mogul lives with wife Jerry Hall.
KCBS reported firefighters were able to save a Christmas tree and a holiday wreath from one house, “all the homeowner wanted saved.”
The firefighters “pulled the tree filled with years of family ornaments, and the wreath to a safe spot near Via Ondulando in the Thomas Fire, the station said.
As with other massive uncontrolled infernos, some homes were leveled because there were so many demands on the firefighters they could not meet them all.
AFP reported the flames were whipped up by winds that swept across the state, from the dry desert regions to the coast.
The biggest so far has been the Thomas fire, estimated at some 70,000 acres. It forced 27,000 people to flee.
The fire continued Wednesday, more or less, unopposed. It has killed at least one and destroyed some 150 structures, mostly homes and businesses.
An estimated 12,000 more were at risk.
The National Weather Service warned winds to 70 miles per hour could be found in the region for at least another day.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection issued a purple forecast, the most severe in the color-coded wind index, for the first time ever, director Ken Pimlott told the Los Angeles Times.
The Rye fire was in the Santa Clarita area.
Mashable reported: “The fires have spread so quickly and grown so large thanks to the California weather phenomenon known as the Santa Ana winds. The east-to-west blowing winds come from the Pacific and tap into the warm and dry conditions inland. The winds push against the air coming from the LA basin’s eastern mountains, which compresses the winds and heat between the ocean and the mountains, further drying out vegetation that has dried out over the summer.”
President Trump spoke out on social media: “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of California’s wildfires. I encourage everyone to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials.”