A helicopter drops water on houses as the Getty fire burns in the Brentwood area, California on Monday. Apu Gomes/ AFP
More than 1,000 firefighters battled a wind-driven blaze on Monday that broke out near the renowned Getty Center in Los Angeles, prompting widespread evacuations as the flames destroyed several homes and forced the shutdown of schools and roads.
The so-called Getty Fire ignited overnight near a major freeway and quickly spread south and west towards neighbourhoods, scorching some 600 acres (240 hectares) and sending people fleeing in the dark.
By Monday afternoon, fire crews had slowed the pace of the blaze and were racing to contain it before strong winds hit the region again on Tuesday evening through Thursday.
Authorities said some 1,100 firefighters were battling an inferno that threatened 10,000 structures, many of them multi-million dollar homes.
Among those forced to flee was Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who tweeted that he and his family had evacuated his home in the upscale neighborhood of Brentwood during the night.
“Man these LA fires aren’t no joke,” he said. “Had to emergency evacuate my house and I’ve been driving around with my family trying to get rooms. No luck so far!”
He later tweeted that he had found a place to stay.
Arnold Schwarzenegger also said on Monday that he had to flee.
“We evacuated safely at 3:30 this morning,” the actor and former California governor tweeted. “If you are in an evacuation zone, don’t screw around. Get out.”
Monday night’s red carpet premiere in Los Angeles of “Terminator: Dark Fate,” starring Schwarzenegger, was canceled because of the fire.
“We will be donating food intended for the after-party to the American Red Cross, which is serving those affected by the fires,” Paramount said in a statement.
The Getty Center, which is home to a priceless art collection, said none of the pieces were under threat from the flames, notably because the building is designed to be fire resistant.
“Many have asked about the art — it is protected by state-of-the-art technology,” the museum said in a tweet.
The Getty Fire broke out as California has been dealing with a number of wildfires that have ignited throughout the state in the last week, forcing massive evacuations and power cuts.
The blaze, which began on Saturday near the town of Tejeda, is advancing on several fronts, propelled by a combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity.
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Turkish authorities registered nearly 600 aftershocks, dozens of them stronger than 4.0 magnitude, complicating the search for those believed to still be breathing under mountains of concrete debris.