National News

Wildfire threatens posh LA neighbourhood

A wind-whipped wildfire has raged into a wealthy Southern California neighbourhood, destroying at least six homes, threatening hundreds more and scorching a building at a winery owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The so-called Skirball Fire, which erupted early on Wednesday as the latest in a rash of major blazes fuelled by hot, dry Santa Ana winds, has burned about 60 hectares near large estates in the Bel-Air neighbourhood of Los Angeles by nightfall and was only five per cent contained.

Firefighters battled to save multimillion-dollar homes in the path of the flames, which also forced the closure of the San Diego Freeway in both directions.

"We are expecting some extreme wind behaviour this evening," Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told reporters at an afternoon news conference.

Murdoch's winery, Moraga Vineyards, was evacuated on Wednesday morning as the fire descended on the grounds, a spokeswoman said. Later a structure on the property was seen on fire as crews worked to extinguish the flames.

"We believe the winery and house are still intact," Murdoch said in a written statement on Twitter. "We are monitoring the situation as closely as we can and are grateful to the efforts of all the first responders."

Murdoch said his thoughts and prayers were with neighbours who "suffered heavy losses."

The new fire also prompted the nearby Getty Centre museum to close the doors at its hilltop campus to prevent damage to its world-class art collection.

The Skirball Fire in the area south of scenic Mulholland Drive and north of Sunset Boulevard is just one of several major out-of-control brush fires that have sprung up in Southern California since Monday, when Santa Ana wind conditions set in.

In Ventura, some 80 km northwest of Los Angeles, more than 1,000 firefighters battled the largest, the Thomas Fire, which has already destroyed more than 150 homes and threatened thousands more.

Although no casualties have been reported, the fires have forced mass evacuations, cancellation of classes at dozens of schools and resulted in the loss of power at more than 250,000 homes in Ventura County.

© RAW 2017

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