A fire raging east of Los Angeles has forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 people. California's governor declared a state of emergency as 1,250 firefighters joined the effort to fight the uncontained inferno.
Authorities issued evacuation orders Wednesday for 82,640 residents and some 34,500 homes near Interstate 15, the main highway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, a stretch of which was closed indefinitely.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared the state of emergency for San Bernardino County, just 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, where the blaze, which has been named the Blue Cut Fire, was quickly expanding.
"We have very, very dry brush, thick fuel, it helps move it along very quickly," Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said. "It is very dangerous to the public and also to the firefighters."
The wind-whipped conflagration began around 10:30 am (1730 UTC) Tuesday and had already burned 18,000 acres (more than 7,200 hectares), according to the multi-agency Inciweb information site.
The blaze has already claimed one high-profile victim: the Summit Inn, a old-fashioned diner on the world-famous Route 66 that counted celebrities like Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood among its clientele, the "Los Angeles Times" reported.
Record drought, seasonal winds add to fire dangers
California is in its fifth year of a record drought and in the midst of a heatwave with the mercury maxing at 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Scientists attribute the effects of climate change as a factor in the extreme weather patterns.
Two firefighters were trapped by flames in the effort to evacuate residents and defend homes, but managed to escape with only minor injuries, fire officials said. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
Flames chew through heavy brush near railroad tracks left vacant by the Blue Cut fire on August 16, 2016
Seasonal gusts known as Santa Ana winds from the arid interior have fanned the flames as the state struggles with perfect conditions for wildfire.
Another major wildfire has been burning north of San Francisco since Saturday. The Clayton fire, which authorities say was sparked by arson, has already claimed more than 175 buildings including much of the community of Lower Lake. A 40-year-old suspect is in custody and the Clayton fire is around 35 percent contained, authorities said Wednesday.
jar/se (Reuters, AFP)