LOS ANGELES: An inferno engulfed the Los Angeles region Wednesday, forcing more than 200,000 people to flee and threatening thousands of homes, including mansions in the luxurious Bel-Air neighborhood.
Authorities issued a “purple” alert—never used before—because of the extreme danger including winds that could reach 80 miles an hour (128 kilometers an hour), severely limiting firefighting efforts.
“Yesterday it was further north, but this morning we woke up and it was east of us,” said Los Angeles resident Patricia Moore, 84, loading belongings into the trunk of her car.
“We heard the fire engines before six o’clock this morning, and we said, ‘Maybe we should start getting our stuff into the car.’”
The flames have swallowed about 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares) in just over a day since the “Thomas” fire, currently the state’s largest, broke out, leaving at least one dead in an area about 45 minutes from downtown LA.
High winds caused another wave of wildfires to erupt overnight Tuesday, including one in Los Angeles’ affluent Bel-Air neighborhood.
The area battled grid locked traffic as residents fled ash and smoke that churned over the smoldering hillside in the United States’ second-largest city.
Fire crews worked to save luxury homes threatened by the flames.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said more than 230,000 people had been forced from their homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
“Very strong winds” blowing from the northeast to the southwest were causing the fire to balloon, he said, warning Angelenos to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
In Bel-Air, that’s exactly what they did.