Tuesday 21 August 2018

Southern Californian wildfire threatens hundreds of homes

Smoke from a wildfire looms over Santa Clarita
Smoke from a wildfire looms over Santa Clarita

One person has died after a massive wildfire destroyed at least 18 homes and threatened 1,500 more in Southern California.

Planes and helicopters dropped water on the blaze which has blackened more than 34 square miles of brush near the city of Santa Clarita and the Angeles National Forest, north of Los Angeles.

About 300 miles up the coast, crews are battling another blaze spanning 16 square miles north of the Big Sur region.

Crews faced another day of hot weather, low humidity and high winds which could once again fan the fires' explosive growth.

Shifting winds sent smoke away from greater Los Angeles and into desert communities, where residents were warned about poor air quality.

Eighteen homes were gutted and one was damaged on Saturday in the Santa Clarita area, where evacuations were ordered as flames raged through brush withered by days of 100-degree temperatures in a Southern California heat wave.

The body of a man was found in a burned car outside a home in the city. Police are investigating, but say there is no indication a crime was committed.

Fire officials say more than 1,600 firefighters are battling the flames threatening about 1,500 homes and 100 commercial buildings.

Despite firefighters' efforts, the blaze destroyed sets at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, which features Old West-style buildings often used for movie 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."

The flames also forced a non-profit sanctuary for rescued exotic creatures to evacuate 340 of its more than 400 animals, including Bengal tigers and a mountain lion.

Volunteers showed up with trucks and trailers and evacuated animals from early Friday through to late Saturday, when fire officials felt the blaze was no longer a threat to the Wildlife Waystation in Sylmar.

The evacuated animals were housed in three or four locations, and the sanctuary will wait at least 24 hours before bringing them back.

North on the Central Coast, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters battled a 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 has been ordered to evacuate.


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