A fierce, wind-driven wildfire swept through foothills and canyons along the northern edge of Los Angeles on Friday, engulfing homes, closing roads and devouring acres of dry brush and chaparral as 100,000 residents were forced to flee, reports Trend referring to Reuters.
At least one death was attributed to the fire, a man who authorities said suffered a heart attack while trying to battle encroaching flames on his property rather than heeding evacuation orders.
The blaze, dubbed the Saddleridge fire, began on Thursday night and had raced across some 7,500 acres (3,035 hectares) by midday Friday, growing into the largest and most ferocious among a spate of wildfires across Southern California.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared localized emergencies on Friday for the counties of Los Angeles and Riverside, which was dealing with a smaller blaze than the one in Los Angeles.
Water-dropping helicopters and airplane tankers loaded with flame retardant fought the Los Angeles blaze from the air as ground crews battled at close range with hand tools and bulldozers, while firefighters lugging hoses from house to house scrambled to protect threatened neighborhoods.
Their efforts were paying off. Although 31 structures were damaged or destroyed, fire officials said their crews managed to save thousands of dwellings while carving containment lines around 13 percent of the fire’s perimeter.
U.S. Representative Brad Sherman told Reuters he was among residents who fled as flames approached.
“I left a bit earlier than most because I was watching the news and the moment they posted on the internet that I was in the mandatory evacuation area, I was out,” Sherman said by mobile phone as he walked back to check on his home in the Porter Ranch suburb.
The conflagration was stoked by strong, dry Santa Ana winds blowing into Los Angeles from desert areas to the east. Those winds were moving flames at a rate of 800 acres (325 hectares) per hour at the fire’s height, city fire officials told a morning news conference.
“This is a very dynamic fire,” Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas told reporters, urging residents in harm’s way to heed evacuation orders. “Do not wait to leave.” The cause of the blaze was under investigation.