A new front has opened in California’s massive wildfire crisis with the affluent Bel Air neighbourhood of Los Angeles in its path.
The Mayor of Los Angeles and the California Governor have declared a state of emergency as the Skirball Fire adds to existing blazes in the state.
The Moraga Bel Air winery belonging to media baron Rupert Murdoch is among the multi-million dollar homes affected by the fire. While NBC News reported that the home of the 21st Century Fox and Fox News boss was “burning down”, Mr Murdoch tweeted the property had simply suffered “damage”.
“The situation at Moraga Bel Air is very fluid at the moment. The property has been evacuated but based on what we’re seeing on TV there may be damage to some buildings in the upper vineyard area. We believe the winery and house are still intact.”
The new fire is also threatening the hilltop campus of one of the world’s richest museums, The Getty Center.
The fire erupted overnight and quickly spread, creating an alarming spectacle for pre-dawn commuters on the hillsides east of Interstate 405 before the California Highway Patrol closed the heavily travelled freeway.
The Skirball Fire, the newest of several uncontained fires that have sprung up in Southern California since Monday, prompted officials to order residents of the hilly, wooded area west of Bel Air out of their homes.
It was not immediately clear how many people were affected by the evacuation order in the area south of scenic Mulholland Drive and north of Sunset Boulevard.
The nearby Getty Center said it shut down for the day to protect its art collection from smoke damage.
More than 1000 firefighters, meanwhile, battled the biggest of the wind-fed blazes in nearby Ventura County 80 kilometres west of Los Angeles, with more than 12,000 homes under threat.
The Thomas Fire raged in and around the city of Ventura, 80 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles, fire officials said.
The blaze has burned more than 26,000 hectares in Ventura and its foothills, they said.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, freeing state funds and resources to help firefighters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it approved grants to help cover the cost of emergency work for the Thomas Fire and two others.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his thoughts and prayers were with everyone in the path of the wildfires.
“I encourage everyone to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “THANK YOU to all First Responders for your incredible work!”
Although no casualties have been reported, the fires have destroyed at least 150 homes, forced mass evacuations, cancellation of classes of dozens of schools and resulted in the loss of power at more than 250,000 homes in Ventura County.
In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, the Creek Fire destroyed at least 30 homes, blackened more than 4400 hectares and forced the evacuation of 2500 homes and a convalescent centre north of Interstate 210 on Tuesday.
The Skirball Fire has burned more than 60 hectares as Santa Ana winds continue to create dangerous conditions.
Mr Murdoch’s property at 1050 Moraga Avenue was bought in August 2013 for $US28.8 million ($38 million) from former Northrop Corp CEO Tom Jones.
The estate is nearly 6.4 hectares with 6.2 hectares of grapevines. The main residence is 717 square metres, and the property includes a two-bedroom guest house and an office building.
– With agencies