Thousands flee homes near LA as wildfires rage

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – More than 90,000 people fled their homes near Los Angeles on Monday as two fast-spreading and uncontained wildfires raged across more than 14,600 acres, blocking key roadways and critically injuring two firefighters.

The larger Silverado Fire erupted early in the morning in the foothills of Irvine, about 60 kilometres southeast of Los Angeles, and quickly spread, fuelled by dry conditions and erratic winds that prevented firefighting aircraft from flying.

“Firefighters continue to battle flames throughout the night on the Silverado Fire. More than 8,000 acres have burned but we have no reports of structures lost at this time,” Orange County Fire Authority said in a Facebook update on Monday night.

A second fast-growing blaze in Yorba Linda, about 17 miles north of Irvine and dubbed the Blue Ridge Fire, erupted early afternoon on Monday and had already scorched more than 6,600 acres, also forcing evacuations.

“It’s nuts – even inside the car, my eyes, my nose and my throat stung,” said Frederic Tournadre, a French man whose company in Irvine sent all its employees home. The Silverado inferno quadrupled in size by afternoon, jumping a highway and covering the area with a huge plume of smoke and ash.

“We have emergency evacuation orders here in the city of Irvine that are impacting approximately 90,800 residents,” Division Chief Shane Sherwood, at Orange County Fire Authority, told reporters.

The National Weather Service warned that the combination of low humidity, dry vegetation and strong winds had created “the most dangerous fire weather conditions” this year.

It said the region will remain under a red flag warning. “New fire ignitions in Los Angeles and Ventura counties will likely have very rapid fire growth, extreme fire behaviour, and long range spotting, resulting in a significant threat to life and property,” the Weather Service said.

The Silverado Fire burns in Orange County near a residential street on October 26 in Irvine, California. PHOTO: AFP