Thousands ordered to flee fast-moving Los Angeles wildfire

LOS ANGELES: Thousands of people in Los Angeles were ordered to evacuate after a fast-moving brush fire ignited early on Monday morning (Oct 28) near the Getty Center museum, the latest outbreak in a wildfire season that has caused disruption at both ends of California.

The fire broke out shortly after 2.30am (0930 GMT) and has since grown to consume more than 400 acres in the hills around Interstate 405, near some of the city's most expensive homes.

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At least two structures in the area were on fire, but there were no reported injuries, Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Erik Scott told reporters.

About 3,300 homes are in the mandatory evacuation area, including that of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. He said he had been driving around before dawn with his family looking for shelter after being forced to flee.

"Finally found a place to accommodate us!" he wrote on Twitter. "Crazy night man!"

Officials at the Getty said the fire was burning to the north of the museum, which was designed with thick stone walls to prevent fire from damaging its treasures.

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The fierce winds fanning wildfires elsewhere in the state, including a large fire consuming parts of the picturesque wine country north of San Francisco, were expected to abate on Monday.

But forecasters with the National Weather Service said high winds would return later in the week and could be the strongest so far this year in the south of the state.

Marc Chenard, a forecaster with the NWS's Weather Prediction Center, said wind gusts in northern California would abate by midday and in the south of the state by later in the afternoon.

"But late Tuesday through Thursday, the winds are back and in some areas can be more extreme than before," he said. "We have the potential for the strongest Santa Ana (southern) winds of the year."

Wind gusts can be between 50 to 60 miles per hour (80-96kph), with some significantly higher, he said. "It's going to be bad."

The northern California wine country has borne the brunt of the fires, with 84 square miles (218 sq km) burnt and 190,000 people evacuated in the so-called Kincade fire.

Only about 5 per cent of that fire was contained early on Monday after crews lost ground against the wind-driven wildfire a day earlier.

About 3,000 people were battling the Kincade Fire, the worst of more than a dozen major blazes that have damaged or destroyed nearly 400 structures and prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a statewide emergency.

"All hands are focusing on the Kincade," Newsom told reporters after meeting residents at an evacuation centre in the Sonoma County city of Petaluma, calling the blaze "the most stubborn challenge we face."

Investigators have not yet said what they believed caused the blaze, although it ignited near a broken wire on a Pacific Gas & Electric transmission tower.

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