More than 82 000 evacuated as state of emergency declared
A rapidly spreading fire raging east of Los Angeles forced the evacuation of more than 82 000 people as the governor of California declared a state of emergency. Despite the efforts of 1 250 firefighters, with more on the way, the inferno had not been contained by late Tuesday, state firefighting agency Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said.
“We have very, very dry brush, thick fuel. It helps move it along very quickly,” she said.
“It is very dangerous to the public and also to the firefighters.”
Governor Jerry Brown declared the state of emergency for San Bernardino County, just 100km east of Los Angeles, where the blaze, which has been named the Blue Cut fire, was quickly growing.
It began around 10.30am on Tuesday and had already burnt 7 200ha, according to the multi-agency Inciweb information site. About 34 500 homes were threatened.
The inferno had already claimed one high-profile victim – the Summit Inn, an old-fashioned diner on the world-famous Route 66 that counted celebrities like Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood among its clientele, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Two firefighters were slightly injured after being surrounded by flames.
They had been treated at a hospital and discharged, and were back on the line fighting the blaze, Inciweb said.
The wildfire poses an imminent threat to public safety, rail traffic and structures, according to the website, which said 82 640 people had fallen under an evacuation warning.
Several roads were closed, as was the Mountain High ski resort in Wrightwood which hosts hiking and other outdoor activities in warmer months.
Another major fire has been burning 160km north of San Francisco since Saturday.
The Clayton fire, as it is called, has burnt more than 1 618ha and is being fought by about 1 700 fire personnel who have brought 35% of it under control, according to Cal Fire.
In central California’s wine region, the Chimney fire burnt 2 792ha near the city of San Luis Obispo. It was only 20% contained. And in the scenic coastal area of Big Sur, the Soberanes fire scorched more than 30 756ha and was 60% contained.
Twenty major fires are raging across the western United States.
There are six in California, four in Wyoming and three each in Colorado and Montana.