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New wildfire breaks out in wealthy LA neighbourhood as tens of thousands forced to flee homes

A new wildfire has erupted in Los Angeles forcing tens of thousands of people from some of the city's wealthiest neighbourhoods to flee their homes.

The blaze is the latest in a series of fires sweeping California. On Sunday, California's governor declared a statewide emergency as nearly 200,000 people have been ordered to leave their home across the state.

Residents in the the exclusive Brentwood area of Los Angeles were told to evacuate, among them basketball star LeBron James and movie star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as ferocious winds drove multiple wildfires through bone-dry vegetation.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said that the fire had grown to 500 acres and that he had seen five burned homes.

The premiere of Schwarzenegger's latest film Terminator: Dark Fate at Hollywood's historic TCL Chinese Theatre was also cancelled.

The blaze encroached close to the Getty gallery, with its collection of priceless art. The gallery was built with special fire protection features and is believed to not be threatened.

A firefighter from San Matteo helps fight the blaze Credit: AP

The blaze that broke out last week amid Sonoma County's vineyards and wineries north of San Francisco exploded to at least 103 square miles, destroying 96 buildings, including at least 40 homes, and threatening 80,000 more structures. In the San Francisco Bay Area, two grass fires briefly halted traffic on an Interstate bridge.

The largest blaze, Kincade Fire north of San Francisco, has spread over 66 thousand acres

State governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement officials were deploying “every resource available” to respond to the wildfires, including a large blaze in Northern California’s wine country powered by gusts that reached more than 102 mph.

California's biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), cut off power to an estimated 2.5 million people in the northern part of the state over the weekend in another round of blackouts aimed at preventing windblown electrical equipment from sparking more fires.

PG&E officials say they are expecting strong winds to whip up again on Tuesday, so customers are likely to have their power turned off for the third time in a week.

Some of those people might not have their power restored from the current outage before the next major shutdown, which would leave them without electricity for five days or longer.

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Night-flying helicopters made water drops before daybreak, and planes unleashing water and bright pink fire retardant joined the battle after the sun came up.

But Mount St Mary's University evacuated 450 students from its Chalon campus nearby. And the University of California, Los Angeles in the city's Westwood section cancelled classes - not because of any direct threat from the fire but because of road closings and evacuations affecting people on their way to UCLA.

Similarly in Northern California, some 40 school districts in Sonoma County cancelled classes. And the University of California, Berkeley, called off classes because of the power outages there.

Firefighters try to save a home from the wildfires. Credit: AP
The entire state of California has declared a state of emergency. Credit: AP
Millions of people have been evacuated from their homes. Credit: PA
Flames are hosed down as a home burns in the Getty fire area. Credit: AP
Millions have been people have been left without electricity because of the wildfires. Credit: AP

The biggest evacuation was in Northern California’s Sonoma County where 180,000 people were told to pack up and leave, many in the middle of the night.

Fear high winds could spread fire across a major highway prompted authorities to expand evacuation orders that covered parts of Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 that was devastated by a wildfire two years ago.

“This is the largest evacuation that any of us … can remember,” the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office tweeted Sunday. “Take care of each other.”

Hundreds of evacuated people arrived at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa by Sunday.

Some came from senior care facilities and more than 300 people slept inside an auditorium filled with cots and wheeled beds.

Scores of others stayed in a separate building with their pets.