New blaze erupts in tony Bel Air area of Los Angeles
VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — A dangerous new wildfire erupted in the tony Bel Air area of Los Angeles early today as firefighters battled three other destructive blazes across Southern California.
Flames exploded before dawn on the steep slopes of the east side of Sepulveda Pass, which carries heavily traveled Interstate 405 through the Santa Monica Mountains where ridge tops are covered with expensive homes. At least two could be seen burning.
Hundreds of firefighters battled flames on the ground as aircraft dropped water and retardant near neighborhoods on the east side of the pass. Commuter traffic snarled in the pass and beyond.
When firefighters told Maurice Kaboud to evacuate his home in Bel Air he decided to stay and protect his home. The 59-year-old stood in the backyard of his multimillion-dollar home as fires raged nearby.
"God willing, this will slow down so the firefighters can do their job," Kaboud said.
Hundreds of homes burned in the area during the famous Bel Air Fire of 1961. The Getty Center art complex, on the west side of the pass, employs extensive fire protection methods. Its website says it was closed to protect its collection from smoke.
Elsewhere, use of firefighting aircraft has been constrained by the same winds that have spread the fires.
The planes and helicopters essential to taming wildfires have been mostly grounded because it's too dangerous to fly them in the strong wind. Tuesday saw gusts of over 50 mph.