Fire scares Los Angeles as larger blazes burn across West

  • AP, Los Angeles
  • Updated: Jun 20, 2016 11:28 IST
Firefighters use a helicopter to douse a fire near California State Route 2. (AP)

A brush fire that broke out near downtown Los Angeles has threatened a densely populated, hilly neighbourhood along a freeway as sizzling temperatures elevated fire danger across the West.

Crews knocked down the blaze in the Silver Lake neighbourhood on Sunday after it damaged two homes, destroyed three shed-like structures, scorched yards and sent trees up in flames.

Neighbours scrambled with garden hoses and buckets, while water-dropping helicopters and scores of firefighters chased embers and doused steep hillsides to keep the flames from spreading.

The blaze only charred 8 acres, but it put urban residents on alert to the hot, dry conditions that have helped wildfires spread rapidly across more remote places from the California coast to New Mexico.

A fire that has burned 12 square miles west of Santa Barbara stayed in check, but firefighters braced for the return of afternoon and evening gusts that fanned the flames earlier in the week, threatening hundreds of homes and leading to evacuations of popular coastal campgrounds.

The fire was just over halfway contained. A new wildfire that broke out on Sunday forced the evacuation of about 75 people from a tiny town in the California desert near the Mexico border.

It had surged to over 2 square miles amid triple-digit temperatures near the town of Potrero, a ranching community just a few miles north of Tecate, Mexico, and about 40 miles southeast of San Diego.

In New Mexico, a 28-square-mile fire that erupted last week and destroyed 24 homes in the Manzano Mountains south of Albuquerque was largely uncontained. But higher humidity overnight allowed crews to strengthen lines around the fire and keep a lookout for hot spots where flames could jump the line.

In eastern Arizona, a fire that has burned 19 square miles southwest of Show Low advanced south, but containment increased to 40%. The Los Angeles fire erupted near a freeway, with flames soaring up tall trees and sending heavy smoke across the road.

Paul Gaffner had been swimming at a pool a few minutes from his home and was planning to run errands when he saw heavy smoke near his house. “Man, that fire is at my house,” he said he thought. When he arrived, his neighbour was hosing down flames in his backyard. In his flip-flops and shorts, he joined the fight as neighbours chipped in help protect their houses.

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