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New Fire Ignites in California Near LA’s Getty Museum


Los Angeles County Firefighter Collin Bashara takes rest with his fire truck in Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019.

Firefighters in the western U.S. state of California battled a new blaze Monday that broke out near the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the latest in a series of fires that is burning across the state.

The fire on the west side of Los Angeles has grown to more than 250 hectares since it ignited before dawn on Monday, and has burned down at least eight homes. The area is where some of the city's most expensive houses are located and the fire forced thousands to evacuate.

Basketball star LeBron James, who lives in the area, said he was evacuated with his family, but had difficulties finding a nearby hotel with vacancies.

"Finally found a place to accommodate us!" the Los Angeles Lakers player wrote on Twitter. "Crazy night man!"

The fire burned Monday close to a major highway – Interstate 405 – and commuters posted pictures on social media showing hills around the road on flames. Fire officials are monitoring the threat of low humidity and high winds over the next few days that will make fire-fighting efforts more difficult.

Officials at the Getty Museum said the fire has not come close to the building, which is made of thick stone walls to protect it from flames.

Multiple fires

California firefighters are simultaneously battling several blazes in the state, including a large fire in the northern wine country.

Fire officials are hopeful that, even as winds pick up again Tuesday, the days that follow will bring what forecasters said would be much more favorable conditions to allow crews to bring the Kincade Fire under containment.

The blaze covered more than 30,000 hectares, was 15% contained and had destroyed more than 120 structures by late Monday.

A firefighter douses water on a house after it was burned by the wind-driven Getty Fire in West Los Angeles, California, Oct. 28, 2019.
A firefighter douses water on a house after it was burned by the wind-driven Getty Fire in West Los Angeles, California, Oct. 28, 2019.

Sonoma County officials let some people return to their homes after lifting evacuation orders, and said they understand the anxiety and frustration of those still waiting to get back into areas deemed to be still too dangerous.

A White House spokesman, Judd Deere, said the White House has been in contact with state and local officials in California, including Newsom.

"Federal resources have been made available and we continue to work with the governor and his staff to determine if additional support is necessary. The president will continue to monitor the situation," he said.

California is commonly hit by numerous wildfires at this time of year, with the combination of low humidity and strong winds combining to create favorable conditions for fire growth.

The California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to nearly one million homes and businesses across Northern California, some with little notice, as part of a strategy to prevent surges from downed power lines sparking more fires. The company said Monday it had restored service to 325,000 of those customers, but would be cutting power to 600,000 in a fresh round of shutoffs Tuesday.

Businesses are angry that the power cuts have cost them tens of thousands of dollars, and residents bitterly complain about the inconvenience of going days without electricity, especially those who need power for lifesaving medical devices.

California authorities blame PG&E lines for sparking last year's wildfires that killed 85 people and destroyed entire towns. The utility, facing billions of dollars in lawsuits, was forced to declare bankruptcy earlier this year.

Newsom, who had criticized the utilities, said the state will spend $75 million to help residents and businesses deal with the power cuts. He said the state has a lot of work to do toward putting electrical wires underground and to manage forests in order to prevent both wildfire damage and the need to shut off the power.