US firefighters battle raging wildfire

2013-05-04 14:26
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Malibu - Firefighters deployed ground crews overnight on Friday to Saturday to battle a raging southern California wildfire that nearly tripled in size as it threatened 4 000 homes.

The Springs Fire, near Malibu 65km west of Los Angeles, grew to 11 300ha from 4 046ha on Friday morning.

The Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) said that the blaze was just 20% contained.

Aerial operations ended for the night, but ground crews would continue battling the blaze, the department said.

California typically has fires later in the year, but strong winds and high temperatures have triggered a series of brushfires this week - including a new one in Glendale, just outside Los Angeles.

In the fire near Malibu, nearly 1 000 firefighters battled wind-fanned flames that have ripped through tinder-dry brush, threatening about 4 000 homes during the day, the VCFD said.

Some celebrities, including actors Jamie Foxx and Tom Selleck, live near the evacuation area, according to KTLA 5 television. Many of the homes were luxury ranches that had stables of horses and other animals.

Fire damage

The fire started on Thursday, forcing the closure of a 12km section of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and a university campus, and reaching a US Navy facility on the coast, reports said.

By Friday, at least 15 homes had been damaged but none destroyed, the VCFD said on its Twitter feed.

More than 950 firefighters were battling the blaze, while in the morning they said it was 10% contained.

The VCFD initially announced the reopening of the PCH at the end of the afternoon, but a short time later said it would remain closed due to concern about rockslides.

The operation, aided by firefighters from neighbouring areas including Los Angeles, was complicated after winds did an about-turn and pushed the fire back north during the day, forcing further evacuations.

Dropping water

Eight helicopters and six planes were dropping water and fire retardant onto blazing hillsides to protect homes in the area.

"There are some big beautiful homes up there... But so far, they're doing a good job of protecting them," VCFD spokesperson Lori Ross told the LA Times.

California State University at Channel Islands remained closed, after cancelling all classes and activities at its Camarillo site on Thursday "due to the [fire] and heavy smoke drifting onto the campus”.

Wildfires are common across the western US in the summer, and in southern California they are often fanned by strong offshore Santa Ana winds later in the year, in the fall or winter.

But another blaze erupted on Friday in Glendale, a residential suburb just 16km north of Los Angeles, burning about 30ha of brush and forcing some local evacuations and the closure a nearby freeway.

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