150-Acre Skirball Fire Spurs Evacuations, Freeway Closures In California

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Residents in Sullivan Canyon and Mandeville Canyon were told to be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.

"The forecast for [Thursday] is purple", Ken Pimlott, director at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said last night, referring to the only color above red on the wind scale.

As multiple fires spread through Southern California, museums near the affected areas have been taking preventative action to close.

A major Santa Ana weather event with wind gusts between 70 and 80 miles per hour, and low relative humidity are to blame for the Skirball fire, which is threatening Los Angeles' affluent Bel Air neighborhood, officials said.

As of press time, the fire is heading from the east toward the Getty Center and toward UCLA.

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The two blazes in the city of Los Angeles came after LAFD had sent firefighters to the massive Thomas Fire in Ventura County.

The fire, which was zero percent contained, was being whipped by unpredictable Santa Ana winds, which blow in from the California desert.

Roxanne Langer at Moraga Vineyards in Bel Air said a temperature-controlled wine storage shed burned after the fire erupted before dawn, but it was unclear how much wine was lost. And by midmorning, it had already consumed a half-dozen mansions and 150 acres of some of L.A.'s most expensive and desirable properties, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced that at least 265 schools in the San Fernando Valley will be closed through the weekend. The number Wednesday, after the orders given because of the fire near I-405, wasn't immediately clear.

Officials have still not stated what caused the fire, but some said the ongoing drought has left the area "ripe for spreading" and likely to get a whole lot bigger.

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She said firefighters stepped in to douse the flames with the aid of helicopters and that other storage sheds, the winery itself and the estate's unoccupied house are not damaged.

The blazes brought evacuation orders for almost 200,000 people, destroyed almost 200 homes and have remained mostly out control. Unusually, they were not backed by high temperatures.

The same vicious winds that made three Southern California wildfires so destructive are also making the firefight itself more hard.

The latest estimate is that they are 140 square miles, but there are warnings that worse is yet to come.

The 5:35 a.m. entry has been corrected to say west side.

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