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California wildfires: Homes burn in Bel-Air, 405 Freeway closed

Los Angeles Times
December 06. 2017 9:55PM
Firefighters try and save a home along Linda Flora Dr. in Bel Air, where the Skirball fire prompted a full closure of the 405 Freeway as well as mandatory evacuations in an area of multimillion-dollar homes Wednesday morning, Dec. 6, 2017. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/TNS) 

Homes were burning in Los Angeles’ Bel-Air neighborhood Wednesday morning as a wind-driven wildfire prompted closure of the 405 Freeway and triggered mandatory evacuations in an area of multimillion-dollar residences.

By 11 a.m., the Skirball fire had scorched 150 acres and destroyed four to six homes on Casiano Road and Moraga Drive, authorities said. Los Angeles fire officials said the fire was being driven by 25 mph winds and likely would grow.

As of 9 a.m., the southbound 405 Freeway was open, but the northbound 405 remained closed between the 10 and 101 freeways.

More than 350 firefighters, 52 engines and six fixed-wing aircraft were battling the blaze from the north, west and east.

Weather forecasters predicted relatively cool temperatures, in the 50s and 60s, on Wednesday but with continued low humidity and winds above 25 mph.

“It’s been years since anything here has burned at all,” said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Cody Weireter. “You’ve got heavy, heavy brush, you’ve got the dryness — obviously, we haven’t had any rain at all. A lot of the fire is topography-driven, which already becomes dangerous. The wind is going to increase that twofold.”

Black smoke began billowing from the fire area just after 9 a.m., apparently when flames reached a canyon area thick with brush 50 to 60 feet deep, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. The area did not burn in the historic devastating Bel-Air fire, meaning vegetation hadbuilt up there for decades.

The city will declare a local state of emergency Wednesday, Garcetti said.

“These are days that break your heart,” Garcetti said. “These are also days that show the resilience of our city.”

Authorities have ordered the evacuation of all homes between Mulholland Drive on the north, Sunset Boulevard on the south, Roscomare Road on the east and the 405 Freeway on the west. Earlier in the morning, they ordered evacuations along Casiano Road, Moraga Drive and Linda Flora Drive.

Officials also urged residents west of the fire — bounded by Mulholland, Sunset, the 405 and Mandeville Canyon Road — to be ready to leave, although that area is not under an evacuation order. As of 8 a.m., the fire remained east of the 405 Freeway.

Firefighters on Bel Terrace helping people evacuate and safe Officials urged residents in mandatory evacuation areas to leave, assuring them that firefighters would protect all the homes they could.

“This is no time to be a hero,” said L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck.

“We are losing some property and that is tragic, but the most important thing is peoples’ lives,” said City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the area on fire.

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