Wed, Jul 27, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Wildfire engulfs California homes, film set

AFP, SANTA CLARITA, California

A firefighter is sprayed with retardant as a helicopter makes a drop while emergency workers continue to battle the Sand Fire near Los Angeles, California, on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

Thousands of firefighters on Monday battled to contain a blaze tearing through suburban Los Angeles, destroying homes and a popular filming location, and threatening actress Tippi Hedren’s animal sanctuary.

The so-called Sand Fire in the Santa Clarita Valley has scorched more than 142km2 of brush, threatening at least 2,000 properties and forcing an estimated 20,000 residents to flee.

About 10,000 homes have been evacuated since the fire broke out on Friday last week near Sand Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, law enforcement officers said.

About 20 homes have been destroyed, officials said, including two belonging to firefighters.

Police are investigating the death of a badly charred unidentified man, found in a car parked in the driveway of a house in the fire zone.

The blaze was just 10 percent contained as of Monday morning, according to Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.

About 3,000 firefighters and 26 helicopters have been deployed to tackle the inferno, which blackened the skies over Los Angeles over the weekend. Many roads and highways were partly closed.

The ferocious blaze destroyed much of Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, which has Western-style buildings used for movie locations.

“We’ve had fires before here and we had always been able to defend it, but this one, this one was a beast. It was a big fire. You could hear it coming,” ranch owner Derek Hunt said.

Hunt’s father and grandfather did the construction work in the 1970s.

The ranch has been the site of various television and shoots.

The only showbiz structure left was a giant metal dinosaur that was going to be used in a Netflix series.

“We were able to save it. They couldn’t destroy the beast,” Hunt said.

Forest fires are a fact of life in much of California, but have become far worse because of bone-dry conditions, with the Golden State gripped in its fifth year of drought.

The Sand Fire has turned out to be one of the worst in this region in decades. It spread fast as it was fueled over the weekend by high temperatures and strong wind.

Hedren’s animal sanctuary, Shambala Preserve, was also forced to move 340 of its more than 400 residents, including Bengal tigers and a mountain lion, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“Mom is safe! Shambala is safe. Now sending love and thanks to all the firefighters who saved her and the cats,” the actress Melanie Griffith, who is Hedren’s daughter, tweeted on Sunday.

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