US California wildfire puts 82 000 at risk

2016-08-18 06:15
A firefighter keeps watch a wildfire along a hillside in Azusa, California. (Ringo HW Chiu, AP)

A firefighter keeps watch a wildfire along a hillside in Azusa, California. (Ringo HW Chiu, AP)

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Los Angeles - A fire raging east of Los Angeles spread rapidly on Wednesday, posing a threat to more than 82 000 people and prompting the governor of California to declare a state of emergency.

More than 1 300 fire-fighters were battling the giant blaze and more were on the way, but as of Wednesday they had been unable to contain the inferno.

Dramatic local TV news footage captured from the front line of the blaze showed "firenadoes" - tornado-like flaming vortexes - sent spinning into the air by the unusual ferociousness of the inferno.

"We have very, very dry brush, thick fuel, it helps move it along very quickly," Lynne Tolmachoff, spokesperson for state firefighting agency California Firesaid. "It is very dangerous to the public and also to the fire-fighters."

The blaze began around 10:30 on Tuesday and has already burned through  more than 12 000ha according to the multi-agency Inciweb information site.

More than 34 500 homes were threatened and 82 640 people were under evacuation warnings.

"There is imminent threat to public safety, rail traffic and structures in the Cajon Pass, Lytle Creek, Wrightwood, Oak Hills and surrounding areas," Inciweb said.

"Please follow the evacuation instructions, as this is a very quickly growing wildfire."

Among the equipment already deployed were 152 fire engines, eight air tankers plus two Very Large Air Tankers (VLATs), and eight helicopters, including night flying helicopters.

The inferno has claimed one high-profile victim so far: the Summit Inn, an old-fashioned diner on the world-famous Route 66 that counted celebrities like Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood among its clientele.

Two fire-fighters were slightly injured after being surrounded by flames. They were treated at a hospital and released, and were back on the line fighting the blaze, Inciweb said.

Read more on:    us  |  fires

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