Wednesday 28 September 2016

Body found as thousands evacuated in Los Angeles wildfires

The fire almost quadrupled in 24 hours

John Antczak

Published 24/07/2016 | 11:37

USDA Forest Service firefighters with the Valyermo Hotshots of Angeles National Forest prepare to head out again on Little Tujunga Canyon Road near the Wildlife Waystation in Santa Clarita, Calif., Saturday, July 23, 2016
USDA Forest Service firefighters with the Valyermo Hotshots of Angeles National Forest prepare to head out again on Little Tujunga Canyon Road near the Wildlife Waystation in Santa Clarita, Calif., Saturday, July 23, 2016
USDA Forest Service firefighter Simeon Hagens, with Angeles National Forest, packs out off of Little Tujunga Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, Calif., Saturday, July 23, 2016
Fire trucks and horse trailers stage outside Wildlife Waystation in Santa Clarita, Calif., on Saturday, July 23, 2016
A fire crew approaches as a wildfire burns on Friday, July 22, 2016, in Santa Clarita, Calif. The fire erupted shortly after 2 p.m. Friday next to State Route 14 in Santa Clarita
Smoke from a nearby wildfire looms over Los Angeles on Friday, July 22, 2016, viewed from Monterey Park, Calif. Smoke drifted over the city's downtown, about 30 miles from the fire's location in Santa Clarita

Thousands of homes have been evacuated as two massive wildfires raged through California - with a burned body found in an area scorched by the flames.

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Firefighters have been battling a fire since Friday that has blackened 31-square miles of brush on the edge of Santa Clarita and the Angeles National Forest. About 300 miles up the coast, crews were battling another blaze across 10-square miles north of the Big Sur region.

Read More: Wildfires burn out of control in mountains north of Los Angeles

The body was discovered on Saturday outside a home on Iron Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, and detectives are trying to determine whether the person was killed by the blaze or another cause, Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Rob Hahnlein said.

The area was among those ordered evacuated as the fire raged through brush withered by days of 100-degree temperatures as Southern California sweltered through a heatwave.

After flames driven by gusty winds swept through an evacuated area, firefighters reported that some buildings had been engulfed, but it was not immediately clear whether they were homes, outbuildings or garages, said Nathan Judy, a spokesman for the U.S. Fire Service.

The area was still unsafe, he said.

"You've still got hotspots in that area, a lot of smouldering stuff," and trees that might fall because their roots had burned, Judy said.

More than 900 firefighters and water-dropping helicopters battled the flames overnight on several fronts.

"It's not a one-direction type of fire," Mr Judy said. "It's going in different directions depending on which way the wind is blowing. It's doing what it wants."

Despite firefighters' efforts, the blaze destroyed sets at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, which has Old West-style buildings used for film locations.

"It was a horrific firestorm," owner Derek Hunt told KABC-TV. "At some point, you know you're defeated and you have to step back and save what you can. We fought as best as we could."

Smoke and ash from the fire cast a pall over neighbouring Los Angeles. Air quality officials advised people with respiratory problems to stay indoors.

Bengal tigers and a mountain lion were among several hundred animals evacuated as flames partially ringed the Wildlife Waystation, a non-profit sanctuary for rescued exotic creatures in Sylmar. Volunteers showed up with trucks and trailers to help with the rescue. Later in the day, firefighters managed to beat back the threat.

More than 200 horses along with goats, rabbits and other animals also were removed from fire areas.

Up the coast, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters battled the blaze in rugged mountains north of Big Sur. The fire five miles south of Garrapata State Park posed a threat to about 1,000 homes and the community of Palo Colorado was ordered evacuated, Cal Fire said.

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