A quick-moving wildfire hit Los Angeles as it moved across Southern California, bringing thick plumes of smoke, huge walls of flames and evacuations.
A fire erupted in Bel-Air, near the iconic landmarks of the Getty Museum and the UCLA Campus, both of which house valuable artwork, the New York Times reports. The blaze infringed on the edges of the 405 freeway, the country’s busiest highway where over 400,000 vehicles run through daily. The northbound lanes were closed for the remainder of the day, and commuters drove through falling ash.
To the northwest, the largest of the wildfires had scorched over 90,000 acres by Wednesday night and burned through at least 150 structures, maybe even more, threatening 12,000 other buildings in Ventura and the neighboring communities. Other fires raged through northern San Fernando Valley.
Officials sent an emergency alert throughout Los Angeles County, with a warning of “extreme fire danger.”
This has already been one of the worst fire seasons on record for California, including the fires in wine country north of San Francisco in October. These new blazes have forced close to 200,000 people in Los Angeles and Ventura to evacuate, and high winds are expected to make the situation worse.
Fire season is usually at its worst in October, but officials say that more fires are happening later this year due to climate change.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said,
These are days that break your heart. These are also days that show the resilience of our city.
Smoke from the wildfires could be seen from as far as the Santa Monica Pier, and the streets and beaches of Santa Catalina Island. The fire in Bel-Air had swept through 475 acres and some structures, and officials ordered 700 homes evacuated. In addition, the regional air quality agency warned of the air pollution that could pose a health hazard.
Chief Ken Pimlott of Cal Fire said, “These will be winds where there will be no ability to fight fires.”