At least two lakh people were evacuated from their homes in Southern California in the United States, as four massive wildfires fanned by gusting winds engulfed the region, Reuters reported. More evacuations are likely as the California Fire Department has asked people to be “ready to go”.
The department has forecast dangerous conditions till Sunday.
The region’s westward hot and dry Santa Ana winds, which blow from the California desert, are fanning the four biggest fires from Los Angeles up the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara County.
The Thomas Fire northwest of Los Angeles grew to 1.15 lakh acres on Friday, from 96,000 acres a day earlier, and destroyed 439 structures. More than 2,600 firefighters are battling the blaze, which has been contained only 5%.
North of San Diego, another blaze called the Lilac Fire (pictured above) grew from 10 acres to 3,600 acres in just a few hours on Thursday, Cal Fire said. California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the San Diego County, as the blaze destroyed 20 structures and led to roads being shut.
The other fires, including the Skirball Fire, reached the wealthy enclave of Bel-Air in West Los Angeles on Thursday.
The 101 freeway, the main coastal route towards the north from Los Angeles, was shut, while hundreds of schools were told to stay closed for the rest of the week because of the smoke from the wildfires, The New York Times reported.
So far, no civilian casualties or fatalities have been reported, but the Los Angeles Fire Department said three firefighters were injured.
The Los Angeles Police Department and the fire department have been keeping residents updated on Twitter. “LAPD working to save every Californian, pets included,” said one tweet, with a photo of a police officer in a respirator rescuing a cat.
The Los Angeles County Animal Shelter said it was hosting 184 pets, including llamas, donkeys and horses. According to some reports, 29 horses were burned to death on Tuesday at a ranch.