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Hundreds evacuated as Los Angeles battles largest wildfire in its history

More than 700 homes were cleared in a Los Angeles neighbourhood and in nearby Burbank and Glendale, due to the 5,000-acre La Tuna fire, named after the canyon area where it erupted.

world Updated: Sep 03, 2017 18:16 IST
Reuters
Reuters
Reuters, Los Angeles
Los Angeles,Los Angeles fire,wildfire
A crew member with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection battles a brushfire on the hillside in Burbank.(AP)

A wildfire on the northern edge of Los Angeles rapidly grew on Saturday into what the mayor called the largest blaze in the city’s history, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of people and the closure of a major highway.

The 5,000-acre La Tuna fire, named after the canyon area where it erupted on Friday, has led authorities to evacuate more than 700 homes in a north Los Angeles neighbourhood and in nearby Burbank and Glendale, officials said.

Authorities warned of erratic winds that could force them to widen the evacuation zone, after the fire destroyed three houses in Los Angeles on Saturday.

“Other than that, no loss of any property,” Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference. “That is a pretty amazing thing.”

The fire was only 10% contained with more than 500 firefighters battling it.

Photo shows the La Tuna Fire burning (left), and the Hollywood sign seen at sunset from Los Angeles. (AP)

The blaze in thick brush that has not burned in decades was slowly creeping down a rugged hillside on Saturday toward houses, with temperatures in the area approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), the Los Angeles Fire Department said in an alert.

“This fire, which broke out yesterday (Friday), we can now say is the largest fire in the history of LA city, in terms of its acreage,” Garcetti told reporters.

A crew with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection battles a brushfire on the hillside in Burbank. (AP)

On Saturday night, Garcetti declared an emergency, ordering “all available resources” deployed to protect residents and property.

“This declaration also requests that the Governor declare an emergency - so that state and federal assistance can be provided to the City as quickly as possible,” Garcetti said in a statement.

The fire could make air unhealthy to breathe in parts of Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, and nearby suburbs, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said in an advisory.

Video posted online by media showed the fire burning along the 210 Freeway when it broke out on Friday, with smoke hovering over the roadway as cars passed by flames a few dozen feet away. Officials quickly closed a stretch of the freeway.

More than 644 km to the north, the so-called Ponderosa Fire has burned 3,880 acres (about 1,570 hectares), and destroyed 32 homes in Butte County since it broke out on Tuesday. It prompted authorities to issue evacuation orders earlier this week to residents of some 500 homes.

The blaze was 51% contained.

California Governor Jerry Brown issued an emergency declaration on Friday to free up additional resources to battle the Ponderosa blaze.

Wildfires in the US West have burned more than 7.1 million acres since the beginning of the year, about 50% more than during the same time period in 2016, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

First Published: Sep 03, 2017 09:39 IST