16 Nov 2008

Wildfires force thousands to evacuate Los Angeles

6:39 pm on 16 November 2008

A wildfire whipped up by near-hurricane force winds has forced thousands to flee their homes in northern suburbs of Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the United States.

The fire near the community of Sylmar has already destroyed hundreds of houses. It spread so quickly that some residents were only given 10 minutes to leave.

Los Angeles officials warn the city is facing rolling blackouts, as the massive wildfire threatens transmission lines. The mayor has pleaded with residents to help save electricity.

Further west, another fire continues to burn in the wealthy town of Montecito, in Santa Barbara County.

California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has declared a state of emergency for both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties, allowing state resources to be used to fight the fires.

Police have closed the main road linking southern California to the north.