SANTA PAULA, Calif. (AP) — Four wildfires in Southern California have burned some 200 homes and other buildings and prompted evacuation orders for at least 150,000 people.
Erratic winds are hampering efforts to battle a 100-acre brushfire in Southern California that has left two people burned, one critically.
The fire erupted Tuesday afternoon in San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles. Gusty Santa Ana winds have pushed it through the area.
Fire officials say some garages have been damaged but no houses have burned and hundreds of homes and businesses have been saved.
Authorities have not determined what sparked the fire but they say two people were found badly burned near the point of its origin near a McDonald’s restaurant.
A fire official said he suspects hundreds more homes have been destroyed by a Southern California wildfire.
Incident Commander Todd Derum told The Associated Press on Tuesday night that those homes would add to the toll of 150 already destroyed by the fire in Ventura County.
Firefighters have been unable to reach some of the severely burned areas to confirm lost homes. But Derum says a bigger tally will likely come on Wednesday.
Derum says some 3,000 homes are threatened.
Production of TV shows including HBO’s “Westworld” has been halted amid Southern California’s wildfires.
HBO said in a statement that the sci-fi drama was filming its second season in an area near two Los Angeles County fires on Tuesday but producers decided to shut down and avoid any danger to actors or crew members.
The statement says “Westworld” will resume filming when it is safe.
Filming on the CBS show “S.W.A.T.” was also suspended.
Many shows shoot outdoor scenes in the outskirts north of the city, where two large blazes have choked the air with smoke and are threatening thousands of homes and buildings.
The Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, who hold workouts near the largest of Southern California’s fires, canceled Wednesday’s practice.
The National Weather Service says the wild winds and dry conditions that have allowed the fires to grow are expected to remain until Thursday and could spill into Friday.
Raked by ferocious Santa Ana winds, explosive wildfires northwest of Los Angeles and in the city’s foothills burned a psychiatric hospital and scores of homes Tuesday and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.
One of the blazes broke out Monday in Ventura County and grew wildly to more than 70 square miles in a matter of hours, county Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. It was fanned by winds clocked at well over 60 mph that grounded firefighting helicopters and planes.
The Ventura County fire prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.
A smaller fire erupted on the northern edge of Los Angeles, threatening the Sylmar and Lakeview Terrace neighborhoods, where residents scrambled to get out as heavy smoke billowed over the city, creating a health hazard for millions of people.
Just weeks ago, wildfires that broke out in Northern California and its famous wine country killed 44 people and destroyed 8,900 homes and other buildings.
Fires aren’t uncommon in Southern California this time of year before the winter rains set in, when the vegetation is tinder dry and winds blast the region.
The early official count was that at least 150 structures burned in the Ventura County fire, but it was sure to go higher. Mansions and modest homes alike were in flames. The Vista del Mar Hospital, which treats patients with mental problems or substance abuse, including veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome, smoldered after burning overnight.
Aerial footage showed dozens of homes in one neighborhood burned to the ground and a large subdivision in jeopardy as the flames spit out embers that could spark new blazes.
More than 27,000 people were evacuated and one firefighter suffered bumps and bruises in a vehicle accident in Ventura County. Authorities initially reported one death, but then retracted that, saying a dead dog but no person was found in an overturned car.
The fire erupted near Santa Paula, a city of some 30,000 people about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles known for its citrus and avocado orchards and farm fields along the Santa Clara River.
“We had the fire come through here, pretty dramatically, all night long,” said Karen Heath-Karayan, who stayed up with her husband to douse flaming embers that rained on their home and small lot where they sell Christmas trees. “It was really scary.”
They were ordered to evacuate as flames got within about 100 yards (91 meters), but they decided to stand their ground to protect their property, where they have chickens and goats.
They hosed down their roof and hit hot spots before winds pushed the fire over a hill toward neighboring Ventura, a city of 106,000 where more people were ordered to clear out.
“It was just exponential, huge growth because the winds, 50 mile an hour out of the east, were just pushing it and growing it very, very large, very quickly,” Lorenzen said shortly after sunrise.
He said daylight would allow air tankers and helicopters to go into action.
Thomas Aquinas College, with about 350 students, was evacuated.
The smaller fire on the northern edge of Los Angeles was estimated at more than 6 square miles (15 square kilometers) and had burned homes, though no damage estimates were released. About 2,500 homes were ordered evacuated.
Alan Barnard watched flames come downhill toward his Lakeview Terrace home and told his wife to grab their 11-month-old grandson and leave. He stayed to collect a few possessions and then took his dog and evacuated the quiet cul-de-sac.
When he returned later, a bedroom and his garage were destroyed, but three-quarters of the house remained intact.
“We’re pretty much out of the main danger now,” he said as he tried to spray hotspots with a garden hose. “We consider ourselves very lucky.”
The flames were driven by Southern California’s dry and gusty Santa Ana winds, which have contributed to some of the region’s most disastrous wildfires. They blow westward, from inland areas toward the coast, speeding up as they squeeze through mountain passes and canyons.
Nearly 180,000 customers in the Ventura County lost power, and schools in the district were closed. Some firefighting efforts were hampered when pumping stations lost power.
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