California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County on Saturday following the loss of at least 165 homes by a raging wildfire fire.
Chris Neely stands amidst the remaining pieces of his brother's home next door to his home, which was mostly spared, during a wildfire in Montecito, California, November 14, 2008.[Xinhua/Reuters Photo]
The brush fire, drive gusts that reached 70 mph overnight and into Saturday morning, has burned 2,600 acres (about 1,053 hectares) of land and prompted authorities to order the evacuation of 10,000 residents.
The fire that was ripping through the city's northern foothills jumped two freeways, leading police to shut them down and forcing evacuees to take surface streets.
The fire also brought down some power lines and could cause rolling blackouts, said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, pleading residents throughout the city to conserve power.
One resident was hospitalized in serious condition with burns over 60 percent of his body, and two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, fire spokeswoman Melissa Kelley said.
Declaring the state of emergency, Schwarzenegger ordered all agencies of the state government to utilize and employ state personnel, equipment and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Office of Emergency Services (OES) and the State Emergency Plan.
Mayor Villaraigosa also declared a local emergency shortly. He said the winds were "treacherous," warning that expected heat in the 90s Fahrenheit combined with threats to power lines from the fire could cause significant interruptions to electrical service in the city.
"It's certainly more than we've lost over the last decade. We have lost some today, there's no question about it," the mayor said of the damages caused by the fire.
The Los Angeles blaze threatened at least 1,000 buildings, Kelley said.
"Near hurricane winds made it very difficult for firefighters," Los Angeles Fire deputy chief Mario Rueda said.
More than nine hours after the blaze was first reported, fire officials said they still had no containment. About 600 firefighters were on the lines by early morning, and a total of 18aircraft were in use to fight the fire.
About 80 miles (about 128 kilometers) to the northwest, another blaze in the Santa Barbara community of Montecito was continuing, having forced the evacuation of more than 5,400 homes and destroyed more than 110 homes.
The Montecito fire started Thursday night, exploding through dry brush and vast stands of oil-rich eucalyptus trees. About 800 firefighters were battling the fire, managing to contain 40 percent of the fire by Saturday morning.