LOS ANGELES: Another day of scorching heat and low humidity saw bushfires continue to fan out around Los Angeles yesterday, frustrating firefighters with their unusually rapid and unpredictable spread.
Firefighters scrambled on multiple flanks to protect houses as well as the historic Mount Wilson Observatory and most of the transmitters for the city’s television and radio stations.
Lack of wind has kept the fire from driving into the suburbs northeast of Los Angeles so far but flames destroyed 53 houses and were threatening 12,000 more last night.
“This is a very angry fire that we’re fighting right now,” US Forest Service Commander Mike Dietrich said.
“I’m not overly optimistic but yet at the same time, our firefighters are going to be taking every action to keep this fire from burning more destruction.”
The first mandatory evacuations within the Los Angeles city limits went into effect yesterday as the fire closed in on the city’s northern neighbourhoods.
So far, 4300 houses in Los Angeles County have been evacuated as a result of the fire.
By yesterday, the so-called Station fire stretched 35km from east to west.
Authorities revised a report that five people were trapped in a canyon near Gold Creek. They said the five refused several orders to evacuate the remote ranch.
“When we tried to get them out they said they’re fine, no problem. They didn’t want to leave,” said fire spokesman Larry Marinas.
Fire officials said so far, the summer fire season had been a routine one for California. Aside from the Station fire, seven others burned around the state on Monday. Many were close to containment.
But the proximity of the Station fire to the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and its stubborn resistance to firefighters, set it apart.
“This is a pretty significant fire, but not an unheard-of fire,” said Jason Kirchner, a spokesman for the Forest Service.
“It’s threatening a lot of homes and it’s right on the northern edge of the Los Angeles basin, which adds a unique nature to this fire.”
The fire has killed two firefighters and charred 500sq km of bush..
Fire crews set backfires and sprayed fire retardant at Mount Wilson, home to at least 20 television transmission towers, radio and mobile phone antennas, and the century-old Mount Wilson Observatory. The observatory houses two giant telescopes and is crucial for several university programs.
If the flames hit the mountain, mobile phone service and TV and radio transmissions would be disrupted.