The five-day-old wildfire burning out of control in the Los Angeles foothills and forest has doubled in size, forcing 10,000 residents to leave their homes. Two firefighters were reported dead.
AFP - A deadly California wildfire doubled in size early Monday, forcing 10,000 residents to flee and threatening a critical telecommunications facility after claiming the lives of two firefighters.
The blaze raging out of control in mountains above heavily populated areas of Los Angeles had ripped through more than 85,000 acres (34,400 hectares) of tinder-dry forest and was "spreading in every direction", authorities said.
An army of more than 2,500 firefighters was deployed to tackle the blaze in the Angeles National Forest, known as the Station Fire, which remained only five percent contained.
The raging inferno was ripping towards Mount Wilson, threatening communications antenna belonging to numerous television, radio stations, cellphone providers and numerous law-enforcement agencies.
"It's about a quarter-mile from Mount Wilson, which remains very much under threat," a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told AFP.
Loss of communications facilities at Mount Wilson could cripple fire and police stations across Southern California, which use the mountaintop transmitters to communicate in the field.
"These are extremely crucial to the infrastructure and public safety protection, and the daily lives in the LA basin," US Forest Service spokesman Mike Dietrich said.
Nearly all of the 22 television stations based in Los Angeles transmit from the site as well as more than two-thirds of the region's FM radio stations.
As dawn broke over Los Angeles on Monday, a thick pall of smoke could be seen shrouding the mountains across the region.
So far more than 10,000 people have been evacuated from the fire, which has left two people dead and injured four others. Eighteen structures have been destroyed although that number was expected to grow.
The two fatalities were firefighters who died south of the town of Acton on Sunday when their vehicle veered off the road and rolled down a mountainside.
A statement from Los Angeles County Fire Department said the two men had been "over-run by a fast-moving fire."
"Our hearts are heavy as we are tragically reminded of the sacrifices our firefighters and their families make daily to keep us safe," California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "This is a devastating day for firefighters everywhere."
The San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles has experienced record heat and low humidity, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in the hottest locations, the National Weather Service said in its red flag warning for the region.
A key factor in the fires' spread is that the areas most at risk are covered with vegetation that has not experienced fire for some four decades, making it even more susceptible to the blaze.
California is frequently hit by scorching wildfires due to its dry climate, winds and recent housing booms that have seen home construction spread rapidly into rural and densely forested areas.
In 2007, California suffered devastation from wildfires among the worst in its history that left eight people dead, gutted 2,000 homes, displaced 640,000 people and caused one billion dollars in damage.
Date created : 2009-08-31