Hundreds of Los Angeles area schools have shut their doors as raging wildfires wreak havoc on Southern California, forcing about 200,000 people to flee and destroying hundreds of houses.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second largest with more than 640,000 students, said it closed at least 265 of its nearly 1100 schools on Friday morning (AEST).
Dry Santa Ana winds, blowing westward from the California desert, could reach 130km/h.
Video and photographs on social media showed flame-covered hillsides along busy roadways as commuters slowly made their way to work or home, rows of houses reduced to ash and firefighters spraying water on walls of fire as they tried to save houses.
The Thomas Fire continued its westward push on Thursday, forcing a few hundred Santa Barbara County residents to be evacuated and the closing of coastal Highway 101 north of Ventura city.
In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, the Creek Fire destroyed at least 30 homes, blackened more than 4800 hectares and forced the evacuation of 2500 homes and a convalescent centre.
Another blaze, the Rye Fire, threatened more than 5000 homes and structures northwest of Los Angeles.
The Skirball Fire in Los Angeles has forced hundreds of residents in the wooded hills near the affluent Bel-Air neighbourhood to evacuate and charred more than 60 hectares.
Skirball threatened media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s Moraga Estate winery. The property was evacuated, with possible damage to some buildings, Murdoch said in a statement. “We believe the winery and house are still intact.”
No civilian casualties or fatalities have been reported. Three firefighters were injured and hospitalised in stable condition, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
Several US stars including Chrissy Teigen, Paris Hilton and Chelsea Handler are among the thousands to evacuate southern California.
Comedian Handler wrote on Twitter: “Just evacuated my house. It’s like Donald Trump is setting the world on fire. Literally and figuratively. Stay safe everyone. Dark times.”
Hilton wrote: “This wildfire in LA is terrifying! My house is now being evacuated to get all of my pets out of there safely.
“Thank you to all the firefighters who are risking their lives to save ours. You are true heroes!”
Singer Lana Del Ray tweeted that “ash is falling on my car”.
Model Teigen also had to evacuate, writing: “Never thought I’d get to actually play what I thought was a hypothetical game of ‘what would you grab?’ if there were a fire.
“So far all I have is (daughter) Luna, some limited edition Oreos and my Spike TV award.”