September 29, 2005

Raging fire threatens L.A. area homes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 1,000 firefighters
struggled against hot winds on Thursday to contain a 7,000-acre
(2,830-hectare) brush fire threatening hundreds of homes
nestled on the foothills of mountains northwest of Los Angeles.

Several hundred residents were ordered to evacuate or chose
to leave their homes as flames licked dramatically along
several miles (km) of ridge and made its way down into canyons.

One home was destroyed overnight after the fire quickly
spread, jumping a freeway in the San Fernando Valley and
sending flames and thick clouds billowing into the night sky.
The cause of the blaze was not known.

Fire officials said the blaze was only 5 percent contained
and high temperatures combined with low humidity were hindering
their attempts to bring it under control. "That's pretty much
the worst weather you can have for a fire," said Los Angeles
County Fire Capt. Mark Savage.

About 20 schools in the area were closed on Thursday
because fire had made the air hard to breathe. Some schools
were used as evacuation centers for more than 450 people
evacuated from small communities of Old Agoura, Box Canyon,
Chatsworth and parts of Oak Park.

Fire officials said they were considering whether to
evacuate parts of Malibu Canyon, an area of secluded
multimillion dollar homes with spectacular ocean views.

Lisa Picciano, a Malibu Canyon area resident who remained
at home with her 6-year-old daughter, said, "I told my daughter
this morning we don't have snow days, we get fire days in