A wildfire swept through the star-studded hills of Los Angeles on Monday, destroying several homes and forcing basketball star LeBron James, Arnold Swarzenegger, and thousands of others to flee.
The flames that roared up a steep hillside near the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles’ Brentwood district illustrated the danger the state faces as high winds batter both ends of California and threaten to turn any spark into a devastating inferno.
“Man these LA (fires) are no joke,” James tweeted, the Los Angeles Lakers star using an emoji for the word “fires”, and adding: “Crazy night."
The Hollywood premiere of actor and former state governor Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator: Dark Fate” was cancelled Monday night.
Others who own homes in the evacuation zone include Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat running for president, who was not home at the time, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, and rapper and producer Dr Dre.
Anxious residents made their way down steep hillsides in the middle of the night in Range Rovers, Teslas and Maseratis.
They left behind homes decorated for Halloween — skeletons hanging from homes, goblins sitting on front steps, cobwebs draped over bushes — as a plume of smoke glowed like a giant pumpkin.
Satellite images captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show the fire and cloud of smoke spreading.
The evacuation area extended west into Pacific Palisades, encompassing some of the most exclusive real estate in California, where celebrities and wealthy professionals live in estates nestled in canyons or on ridge-top retreats that cost tens of millions of dollars but are surrounded by tinder-dry vegetation.
At least eight homes were destroyed and six damaged in the LA-area blaze, fire officials said. Meanwhile, a blaze in Northern California wine country has exploded in size. No deaths from either blaze were reported.
Some 2.2 million people were without electricity after California’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), shut it off over the weekend in the northern part of the state to prevent its equipment from sparking blazes during windy weather.
PG&E warned more deliberate blackouts were possible in the coming days because another round of strong winds is expected.
The company, which was driven into bankruptcy after its equipment ignited several deadly wildfires in recent years, admitted on Monday that despite the outages, its power lines may have started two smaller fires over the weekend in the San Francisco Bay area.
PG&E also has said its transmission lines may have been responsible for the Sonoma County fire.
That blaze, which broke out last week amid the vineyards and wineries north of San Francisco, grew to at least 116 square miles, destroying 123 buildings including 57 homes, damaging another dozen homes and threatening 90,000 more structures, authorities said.
Although some 30,000 people were allowed back home on Monday, about 156,000 people were still under evacuation orders because of the fire, mostly from the city of Santa Rosa. People on the eastern side of the fire and in neighboring Lake County also were given evacuation warnings to be prepared to leave because of changing winds.