Wildfire forces evacuation of pricey Los Angeles neighborhoods

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A fast-moving brush fire has forced evacuation of some of the ritziest neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area and shut a major thoroughfare as high winds wreak havoc in California.

The areas being evacuated stretch from Mulholland Drive south to the Pacific Ocean and east to the 405 Freeway. The Getty Fire, now covering more than 500 acres, erupted at 1:34 a.m. local time on Monday in an area managed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. It remains a "very dynamic situation," according to a notice on the Los Angeles Fire Department website.

The freeway, a major commuter route that cuts through the L.A. area, has been shut southbound to Interstate 10, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday in a news conference. Meanwhile, a neighboring utility, Edison International, has shut off power to almost 16,000 homes and businesses and is considering 350,000 more blackouts, largely in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district is impacted, had a stark message for residents who received an evacuation warning. "Don't be an idiot," he said during the news conference. "Get the hell out of there."

The Getty Center museum — an L.A. landmark that overlooks the freeway and the city from its perch near the top of the Santa Monica Mountains — is just inside the evacuation area, but has been spared damage from the fire, according to a twitter post. It is closed on Monday.

In L.A., the mandatory evacuation zone includes the seaside community of Pacific Palisades and parts of Brentwood. The mandatory evacuations affected residents including Los Angeles Lakers basketball star LeBron James, who said he struggled to find housing for his family immediately after the order to leave.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state is getting federal assistance to help fight the Getty fire as part of a statewide emergency. The city is using bulldozers to clear areas near the 405 freeway to keep the fire from spreading, according to Garcetti. The cause of the fire is under investigation, he said.

Mulholland Drive meanders through the Santa Monica Mountains, with the homes of celebrities and other wealthy people on side streets nearby. The evacuation zone includes more than 10,000 structures, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Dry winds will whip California's fire-scarred landscape through at least Thursday with little letup in the interim, according to Marc Chenard, a senior branch forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md.

In Southern California conditions "should be gradually improving today and tonight, but the next event Tuesday night into Thursday could be worse than the current one," Chenard said.

Bloomberg News