Wildfire Erupts In Los Angeles Hills, Fueled By Strong Winds

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 7:01 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Fires erupted in the hills above Los Angeles Thursday, damaging or destroying several homes, as dangerous north winds swept dry southern California. Farther inland, a blinding sandstorm triggered a deadly highway pileup.

Wind speeds of more than 50 mph propelled a 35-acre blaze in grass near expensive mountainside homes above the city of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Ron Myers said.

Fires erupted on the roofs of homes and four were damaged, two severely, Myers said.

About 200 firefighters, some using water-dropping helicopters, were battling the fire in the Beverly Glen neighborhood on the south face of the Santa Monica Mountains. After several hours, firefighters had made substantial progress, but the fire continued in some areas.

Daphna Ziman was getting ready for a Hillary Clinton fundraiser at her Woodland Drive home when there was suddenly smoke everywhere. Police came to the door and told her to evacuate.

``It was black outside, you couldn't walk through it, I've never seen anything like it,'' she said.

Smaller fires burned elsewhere in Southern California, including a 15- to 20-acre blaze in Palmdale, a desert city in northern Los Angeles County. Homes were threatened for a time before most of the active flames were knocked down, county fire Inspector Sam Padilla said.

Fires caused power outages for more than 100,000 customers in Los Angeles County and surrounding areas. Utility officials didn't know when service would be restored.

Southern California is extremely fire-prone after a dry winter. Downtown Los Angeles has recorded less than 2 1/2 inches of rain since July 1.

In the inland region east of Los Angeles, 50 mph winds whipped sandstorms across San Bernardino County's desert roadways.

A morning pileup on Interstate 40 killed one person and injured several others near Barstow during zero-visibility conditions, county fire spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said.

``It's a dust storm. There are road closures everywhere,'' Martinez said.