September 29, 2005

Raging brush fire threatens Los Angeles area homes

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 3,000 firefighters
struggled on Thursday to contain a 17,000-acre

brush fire threatening hundreds of homes nestled in the
picturesque foothills northwest of Los Angeles.

Several hundred residents in nine communities were ordered
to evacuate or chose to leave their homes as flames roared both
west and north along a 15-mile stretch of ridges and canyons.

One home and five other structures were destroyed in the
fire, which spread quickly late Wednesday, jumping a freeway in
the San Fernando Valley and sending flames and smoke billowing
across the skyline. The cause of the blaze was not known.

Fire officials said the blaze had tripled in size overnight
to 17,000 acres and was only 5 percent contained. High
temperatures combined with low humidity hampered attempts to
bring it under control. But the hot, gusting winds that fanned
the fire on Wednesday had largely died out on Thursday although
officials warned the winds could change at any time.

"We are guardedly optimistic, if the weather cooperates, if
the public cooperates ... that this may end well for us," Los
Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told reporters.

He said 2,000 homes and buildings had been saved by the
efforts of the firefighters.

About 20 schools in the area were closed on Thursday
because fire made the air hard to breathe. Some schools were
used as evacuation centers, which housed some 450 people

Fire officials urged residents to comply with evacuation
requests and prepare to leave their homes if necessary on short

Firefighting aircraft drop water and fire retardants
through the night to prevent the fire from reaching more
heavily populated areas in the Simi Valley commuter belt, some
35 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, and the mountains of
Malibu to the west.

One firefighter was injured on Wednesday when he was hit by
a falling rock. No other injuries have been reported.