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Thousands of firefighters battle California wildfires as more people forced from their homes

Around 180,000 people are currently under a mandatory evacuation order.

A home burns in the wildfires on Monday.
A home burns in the wildfires on Monday.
Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez via PA

MORE THAN 1,000 firefighters battled a fire that broke out near the renowned Getty Centre in Los Angeles, California yesterday and prompted widespread evacuations as the flames destroyed several homes and forced the shutdown of schools and roads.

The so-called Getty Fire ignited overnight near a road and quickly spread south and west towards neighborhoods, scorching nearly 2.5 square kilometres and forcing people to flee their homes. 

By yesterday afternoon, fire crews had slowed the pace of the blaze and were racing to contain it before strong winds hit the region again this evening and for the next couple of days. 

The Getty Centre, which is home to a priceless art collection, said none of the pieces were under threat from the flames because the building is designed to be fire resistant.

The Getty Fire broke out as California has been dealing with a number of wildfires that have ignited throughout the state in the last week, forcing massive evacuations and power cuts.

Mount St Mary’s University evacuated 450 students from its Chalon campus near the fires. The University of California in the city’s Westwood section cancelled classes because of road closures and evacuations affecting people on their way to to the college. 

Similarly in Northern California, around 40 school districts cancelled classes. The University of California, Berkeley, called off classes because of the power outages there.

‘These LA fires aren’t no joke’ 

Authorities said around 1,100 firefighters were battling an inferno that threatened 10,000 structures, many of them multi-million dollar homes.

Los Angeles basketball player LeBron James was among those who had to flee his home. He tweeted that he and his family had evacuated their home in the upscale neighborhood of Brentwood during the night.

“Man these LA fires aren’t no joke,” he said. “Had to emergency evacuate my house and I’ve been driving around with my family trying to get rooms. No luck so far!”

He later tweeted that he had found a place to stay.

Actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also said on Monday that he had to flee the fires.

Monday night’s red carpet premiere in Los Angeles of “Terminator: Dark Fate,” starring Schwarzenegger, was canceled because of the fire.

“We will be donating food intended for the after-party to the American Red Cross, which is serving those affected by the fires,” Paramount said in a statement.

‘We are devastated’ 

California’s governor declared a statewide emergency on Sunday as a wind-driven fire in the Sonoma wine region north of San Francisco spread out of control, forcing tens of thousands to flee.

The Kincade Fire, which erupted last Wednesday and is the largest so far this year, had spread to more than 260 square kilometres by Monday afternoon and was only 15% contained.

Firefighters have also been battling a number of additional fires fed by strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures. The fires have destroyed dozens of homes and vineyards in the area. 

featureimage Authorities say the fires will not be fully contained until 7 November. Source: Press Association

Authorities said more than 3,000 firefighters and responders were battling the Kincade Fire, which was not expected to be fully contained before November 7.

Firefighters are struggling to prevent the flames from spreading west toward areas that have not experienced fires since the 1940s and where the vegetation is dense and dry, providing dangerous fuel.

An estimated 180,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders, including parts of the city of Santa Rosa and a large swath of Sonoma County extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Nearly 80,000 structures are threatened, according to the county sheriff’s office.

In a bid to reduce the risk of fire, California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), has been turning off power to hundreds of thousands of customers across northern and central California.

PG&E has come under intense scrutiny after it emerged that one of its transmission lines may have played a role in the Kincade Fire.

The same type of line was responsible for California’s deadliest-ever wildfire – last year’s Camp Fire, which killed 86 people.

PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, has been blamed for several other fires in the state in recent years.

© AFP 2019 with reporting from Press Association. 

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