Wildfires Erupt in Los Angeles, Burn in California’s Wine Country

October 28, 2019 Updated: October 28, 2019

Authorities in California ordered thousands of people to evacuate some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles after a wildfire broke out early on Oct. 28 and advanced rapidly to the area near the Getty Center museum.

The fire broke out around 1:30 a.m. and has since raced over more than 500 acres in the hills around Interstate 405, near some of the most expensive homes in Los Angeles.

The fire burned in the upper elevations of the Brentwood area. The evacuation area extended westward through Pacific Palisades down to the Pacific Coast Highway, encompassing some of the most exclusive real estate in California, where celebrities and executives live in mountain and ridgetop retreats that cost tens of millions of dollars but are surrounded by tinder-dry vegetation.

Residents who wrote on Twitter about being evacuated include basketball player LeBron James, “Terminator” actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Agents of SHIELD” actor Clark Gregg, and “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter.

Videos from the scene show flames covering the slopes near the highway.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said five homes had burned down but that no one was injured. He urged residents in the evacuation zone, which covers more than 10,000 homes, to evacuate quickly.

“This is a fire that quickly spread,” he said.

James, who owns a $23 million home in the exclusive Brentwood neighborhood, said he drove around with his family looking for a place to stay.

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

The Getty museum was designed with thick stone walls to prevent fires from damaging the works of art inside.

Night-flying helicopters made water drops before daybreak, airplanes unleashed loads of water, and bright-pink fire retardant was dropped after the sun came up.

David Boyle, 78, said he awoke at 3 a.m. to his doorbell ringing and police officers pounding on the front door. They warned him the wildfire was advancing toward his Brentwood home near the Getty Center arts complex.

“They said, ‘You need to evacuate.’ I’m like, ‘When?’ They said, ‘Now,'” Doyle said. He grabbed dog food and his wife’s jewelry and hustled his dogs out the door. They went to a recreation center.

“It’s a fact of life when you live in this area,” he said. “Every place has some problem with disasters. People talk about earthquakes here, but I don’t think it’s as bad as hurricane season.”

Northern California’s Wine Country was hit the hardest this season. The Kincade fire has scorched more than 100 square miles, forcing the evacuations of 190,000 people. Firefighter crews contained only 5 percent of the fire by the morning of Oct. 28, after losing ground to fires driven by wind.

More than 4,000 people are battling the Kincade Fire, the worst of more than a dozen major blazes that have damaged or destroyed nearly 400 structures in California.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency over the weekend. Fire conditions have made California a “tinderbox,” said Jonathan Cox, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Forty-three of the state’s 58 counties were under warnings for high fire danger on Oct. 27, with flames driven by gusts exceeding 100 mph.

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.

More than 1 million homes and businesses were without power on the morning of Oct. 28, most of those from planned outages. Forecasts of high winds had prompted PG&E to shut off power to 940,000 customers in 43 counties on the night of Oct. 26 to guard against the risk of sparking wildfires.

Newsom has been sharply critical of PG&E, saying corporate greed and mismanagement kept it from upgrading its infrastructure while wildfire hazards have steadily worsened over the past decade.

California’s wildfires are fueled in part by dry brush and dry wood, which piles up in forests due to poor forest management. Critics, including President Donald Trump, have long blamed the state’s far-reaching environmental policies for leaving vast swaths of forests filled with dry wood.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January, citing billions of dollars in civil liabilities from deadly wildfires sparked by its equipment in 2017 and 2018.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
RECOMMENDED