California wildfires: Nearly 200,000 flee amid new blaze

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Media captionFootage captures the moment a motorist risked his life to rescue a wild animal amid California wildfires

Nearly 200,000 residents have now been evacuated amid California wildfires as crews pivot to fight a new blaze.

Some 5,000 firefighters have been battling four brushfires that have damaged about 150 buildings in the south of the state.

The number of evacuees nearly quadrupled on Thursday as a fifth fire broke out north of San Diego.

One death has been reported so far – a woman’s body was found in a burned-out area in Ventura County.

But an official told the Ventura Country Star newspaper that the death in the town of Ojai may have been a car crash and it’s unclear if it was fire-related.

By Thursday afternoon local time, California’s fire service said the blaze had forced the evacuation of 189,000 residents.

The newest blaze, the Lilac fire, has scorched at least 150 acres (60 hectares).

The White House said it was in contact with Californian authorities and ready to offer whatever help is needed.

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Firefighters rescued both a work of art and the family Christmas tree from this Bel-Air home

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Homes in Bel-Air usually cost millions of dollars

Authorities have issued a purple alert – the highest level warning – amid what it called “extremely critical fire weather”.

But there was some respite as the desert Santa Ana winds did not turn out to be as ferocious as feared.

The University of California, Los Angeles cancelled all classes on Thursday.

Though its campus lies outside the evacuation zone on the city’s west side, it said it took the decision “given the array of uncertainties”.

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Media captionIn California, entire neighbourhoods are fleeing

Many schools have also been closed.

In the wealthy Los Angeles enclave of Bel-Air, firefighters were seen removing artwork from luxury homes on Wednesday as the Skirball Fire raged.

The neighbourhood is home to celebrities and business leaders from Beyonce to Elon Musk.

Singer Lionel Richie cancelled a Las Vegas performance for Wednesday evening, saying he was “helping family evacuate to a safer place”.

An estate and vineyard owned by Rupert Murdoch also suffered some damage.

The media mogul said in a statement: “We believe the winery and house are still intact.”

The Los Angeles Times said Mr Murdoch paid $28.8m (£21.5m) for the property four years ago.

The Getty Museum, which is also at risk, said it would remain closed on Thursday.

It said it had not removed its artworks and that air filtration systems were protecting its collection – including pieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh and Turner – from smoke damage.

The Thomas Fire in Ventura County remains the largest, having spread as far as the Pacific coast, and satellite images showing swathes of scorched earth.

Another blaze north of Los Angeles, the Creek Fire, was only 10% contained and covered some 12,605 acres.

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