Several large homes were destroyed as wildfire swept through the star-studded hills of Los Angeles on Monday. The fire also forced LeBron James and thousands of others to flee. Meanwhile, a blaze in Northern California wine country exploded in size. The flames that roared up a steep hillside near the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles’ Brentwood section illustrated the danger the state faces as high winds batter both ends of California and threaten to turn any spark into a devastating inferno.
According to the fire officials, at least eight homes were destroyed and six damaged in the LA-area blaze.
No deaths from either blaze were reported, but a firefighter was seriously injured in the blaze in Sonoma County wine country. Authorities later said he was in stable condition.
Some 2.2 million people lacked electricity after California’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, shut it off over the weekend in the northern part of the state to prevent its equipment from sparking blazes during windy weather. More deliberate blackouts are 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 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.
The blaze, which broke out last week amid the vineyards and wineries north of San Francisco, grew to at least 116 square miles (300 square kilometers), destroying 123 buildings including 57 homes, damaging another dozen homes and threatening 90,000 more structures, authorities said.
Although about 30,000 people were allowed back home Monday afternoon, 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.
The flames didn’t discriminate. In wine country, farmworkers who toil in the vineyards were among those displaced. In Los Angeles, James and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger were driven from their homes.
“Man these LA (fires) are no joke,” the Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted, using an emoji for the word “fires.” ″Crazy night.”
The Hollywood premiere of Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator: Dark Fate” was canceled Monday night.
Others who own homes in the evacuation zone include Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat running for president, who was not home at the time; Walt Disney Co. 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.
(With inputs from AP)