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Americas

Authorities estimate two weeks to control wildfire

Video by Oliver FARRY

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-02

The six-day-old wildfire burning out of control in the forestland around Los Angeles has doubled in size, forcing 10,000 residents to leave their homes. Authorities estimate the blaze will not be brought under control until September 15.

AFP - A deadly wildfire roared out of control near Los Angeles on Monday, forcing thousands to flee and threatening a crucial telecommunications facility after claiming the lives of two firefighters.
   
The monster blaze raging in mountains north of Los Angeles had ripped through more than 105,000 acres (43,000 hectares) of tinder-dry forest and was "spreading in every direction," authorities said.
   
An army of more than 2,500 firefighters was battling the blaze in the Angeles National Forest, known as the Station Fire, which remained only five percent contained and sent a giant mushroom cloud of smoke across the city.
   
The inferno was lapping Mount Wilson, threatening communications antennae belonging to numerous television and radio stations, cell phone providers and law-enforcement agencies.
   
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.
   
A squadron of aircraft, including two SuperScooper air tankers, have been deployed to help bombard the blaze, although the vast plumes of smoke were hampering the aerial attack, officials said.
   
Later Monday, authorities revised an initial containment estimate of September 8, saying the blaze was now unlikely to be brought under control before September 15.
   
So far more than 10,000 people have been evacuated from the fire, which has left two people dead and injured four others, including two people who attempted to ride out the blaze in an outdoor jacuzzi.
   
At least 18 structures have been destroyed although that number was expected to grow, officials said.
   
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.
   
The Station Fire was one of several destructive blazes raging across California on Monday.
   
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the scene of a fire in Placer County, northeast of Sacramento that had charred 275 acres (110 hectares) of forest and gutted some 50 homes across the region.
   
Schwarzenegger urged any residents who received an evacuation order to flee immediately. "I think the key thing is when you hear from law enforcement, anything about evacuation, follow their orders," Schwarzenegger said.
   
His warning came as officials revealed they were trying to reach five people who ignored an evacuation order in the Los Angeles wildfire.
   
Los Angeles County Fire Captain Mark Savage told CNN no firefighters would be risked if conditions surrounding the trapped people were too dangerous.
   
"Our firefighters are watching very closely," Savage said. "If the situation becomes where we can get in there and get them out we will but we certainly won't be endangering firefighters to make a rescue attempt at this point."
   
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.
   
A key factor in the fires' spread is that the areas most at risk are covered with vegetation that has not experienced fire for several 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 : 2009-09-01

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