New evacuation order for Texas city hit by explosion, chemical fire

FILE PHOTO: A process tower flies through air after exploding at the TPC Group Petrochemical Plant, after an earlier massive explosion sparked a blaze at the plant in Port Neches, Texas, U.S., November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Erwin Seba/File Photo

New evacuation order for Texas city hit by explosion, chemical fire
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Authorities have issued a second evacuation order in a week for residents of a city in the U.S. state of Texas after an explosion and fire at a petrochemical plant.

Officials issued the order late on Wednesday in Port Neches after air monitors detected elevated levels of a cancer-causing petrochemical produced at the TPC Group facility that was struck by the blaze and blast.

The fire at the 218-acre (88-hectare) plant, which was put out on Tuesday after burning for six days, had earlier prompted the evacuation of about 60,000 residents from several cities in southeast Texas.

Air monitors on Wednesday posted elevated levels of butadiene, a cancer-causing chemical. The plant makes flammable chemicals used in the production of synthetic rubber and a gasoline additive.

Schools were closed for the rest of the week, officials said. Schools in Port Neches and nearby Groves had reopened on Tuesday.

TPC Group did not immediately respond to requests for information on the butadiene emissions.

The latest evacuation, issued by the City of Port Neches and Jefferson County Judge Branick, replaced a shelter-in-place ordered earlier on Wednesday.

Elevated butadiene levels had been measured in some parts of the city and could cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, irritated eyes and throat, the statement said. They did not pose a serious health risk, or a flammability or explosion risk, it said.

A local temporary shelter for residents was re-established, the statement added.

TPC Group’s Port Neches plant suffered a fire after an explosion on Nov. 27 that injured three workers. Officials have not determined the cause of the explosion and fire, which began in a butadiene processing unit.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba and Sumita Layek; Editing by Richard Pullin and Timothy Heritage)

Death toll in Philippine typhoon rises to 10 as storm moves off

MANILA (Reuters) – The death toll from a typhoon that hit provinces south of the Philippine capital rose to 10, disaster agencies said on Wednesday, pointing to precautions and compulsory evacuations as key in preventing more casualties.

Typhoon Kammuri, the 20th to enter the Philippines this year, hit land on Monday night, prompting forced evacuation of thousands of residents and cancellation of hundreds of flights. It also disrupted the schedule for some events in the Southeast Asian Games, which the Philippines is hosting until Dec. 11.

Five people died in the central Bicol region, including three who drowned, a local disaster agency said in a report. Five more were killed in a region south of the capital.

Around 345,000 people are still in evacuation centers, awaiting authorities’ clearance for them to return home, disaster agency spokesman Mark Timbal told broadcaster ANC.

“The storm left the usual damage of major storms such as fallen trees, ruined roofs of houses and some government facilities,” Timbal said. Officials said forced evacuations and preparations prevented greater loss of life.

Sustained winds of Kammuri weakened to 100 kilometers per hour (67 miles per hour), with gusts of up to 125 kph (78 mph) as it heads toward the South China Sea. It is set to leave the Philippines on Wednesday night, the state weather bureau said.

An average of 20 typhoons annually hit the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Texas chemical fire that forced evacuations burns for third day

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The fire at a petrochemical plant that prompted thousands of people to flee from four Texas communities burned for a third day on Friday with officials huddling as investigations were launched.

The fiery blast at a TPC Group facility on Port Neches, Texas, on Wednesday injured three workers, blew locked doors off their hinges and was felt in communities far from the site. The plant makes chemicals used in production of synthetic rubber, resins and an octane-boosting component of gasoline.

Firefighting crews continued to battle the blaze on Friday, according to TPC, and local mayors, fire officials were called to a meeting with the region’s top executive. Federal and state investigators were searching for the cause of the blaze and a Texas pollution regulator criticized the spate of such fires.

About 60,000 residents in four communities near the site were ordered to leave their homes Wednesday afternoon when a major, secondary blast prompted fears of flames reaching large storage tanks of the petrochemicals.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Australians shelter from bushfires as political heat climbs

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Firefighters battled hundreds of bushfires across Australia on Thursday as scores of blazes sprang up in new locations, triggering warnings that it was too late for some residents to evacuate.

As Thick smoke blanketed the most populous city of Sydney for a third day, residents were urged to keep children indoors, stepping up pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to tackle climate change.

By early afternoon, dozens of fires were burning across the southeastern state of Victoria and temperatures of 40.9 Celsius (105.6 F) in Melbourne, its capital, matched the hottest day on record in 1894, Australia’s weather bureau said.

Authorities warned residents of towns about 50 km (31 miles) north of Ballarat, the state’s third largest city, that it was too late for them to evacuate safely.

“You are in danger, act now to protect yourself,” fire authorities said in an alert. “It is too late to leave. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately.”

Blazes across several states have endangered thousands of people, killing at least four people this month, burning about 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and bush and destroying more than 400 homes.

The early arrival and severity of the fires in the southern hemisphere spring follows three years of drought that experts have linked to climate change and which have left bushland tinder-dry.

With 10 days remaining to the official start of summer, extreme temperatures and high winds have sparked wildfires in new areas, even as firefighters tracked the crisis across the mainland, the Northern Territory and the island of Tasmania.

In Victoria, power to more than 100,000 homes was knocked out amid lightning strikes and strong, gusty winds of more than 110 kph (68 mph) that knocked tree branches into power lines, ahead of a cool change expected to bring relief in the evening.

The extensive damage was likely to leave some customers without power through the night as utilities worked to restore networks and fix downed powerlines, a spokeswoman for power provider Ausnet said.

State authorities issued its first Code Red alert in a decade, signifying the worst possible bushfire conditions, warning that should a fire start it would be fast moving, unpredictable and probably uncontrollable.

In the state of New South Wales, strong winds blew smoke from 60 fires still burning over much of Sydney, shrouding the harbor city and its famous landmarks in thick smog.

The state imposed tough new water curbs in Sydney from Dec. 10, when a key dam is expected to be down to 45% capacity. Residents face fines if they use hoses to water their gardens and wash their cars.

CLIMATE POLITICS

The unrelenting conditions have sharpened attention on the climate change policies of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who rejected any link.

“Climate change is a global phenomenon, and we’re doing our bit as part of the response to climate change,” Morrison told ABC radio.

“To suggest that, with just 1.3% of global emissions, that Australia doing something differently – more or less – would have changed the fire outcome this season, I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all.”

Morrison’s conservative government has committed to the Paris Agreement for a cut in emissions from 26% to 28% by 2030, versus 2005 levels. Critics say current projections suggest it will miss that target and have urged remedial steps.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Jane Wardell and Clarence Fernandez)

Easing winds give firefighters a break in California wildfire battle

Easing winds give firefighters a break in California wildfire battle
By Rollo Ross

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Fierce, dry Santa Ana winds off the Southern California mountains eased early on Friday, helping firefighters make progress in corralling major wildfires that have displaced thousands of residents.

A fresh spate of wildfires had roared to life on Thursday in hilly neighborhoods outside Los Angeles, destroying homes and forcing yet more evacuations before the Santa Ana winds lost their punch overnight.

The Maria Fire swelled to torch more than 8,000 acres (3,240 hectares) of Ventura County after igniting on Thursday evening, threatening some 1,800 homes and other structures, according to the county fire department. About 7,500 residents were ordered to find lodgings elsewhere for Halloween night, and dozens of schools were closed on Friday.

East of Los Angeles, the Hillside Fire scorched more than 200 acres (80 hectares) of the San Bernardino National Forest, burning residential areas in the north end of the city of San Bernardino, destroying at least six homes on Thursday, the county’s fire department said.

Crews managed to carve containment lines around 50% of the fire’s perimeter. No injuries were reported.

The dry Santa Ana winds that howl down from the mountains every autumn in Southern California were forecast to abate on Friday, although there could still be fire-fuelling gusts of 15 to 20 miles per hour (25 to 32 km per hour), the National Weather Service said.

A fire that erupted early on Monday near the famed Getty Center art museum in west Los Angeles threatened thousands of homes in some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods but was largely suppressed, with containment listed at 40%.

Residents were allowed to return to most of the 10,000 homes that had been ordered evacuated. The museum emerged unscathed, but about a dozen dwellings were lost in the 745-acre (301-hectare) Getty fire and two firefighters were injured.

About 30 miles (50 km) to the northwest, a fire raged to the edge of the hilltop Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Ventura County’s Simi Valley on Wednesday, threatening thousands of homes, but was 60 percent contained early on Friday. Firefighters doused flames before they could reach the library.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co  acknowledged last week that the Kincade Fire, a blaze that charred 77,000 acres (31,160 hectares) of Sonoma County wine country north of San Francisco, started last week near a damaged PG&E transmission tower at about the time a high-voltage line on that tower malfunctioned.

That blaze has burned more than 77,700 acres and destroyed at least 349 homes and other structures but was listed as 65% contained on Thursday evening.

PG&E, which over this past weekend began shutting off power to 940,000 California customers to guard against the risk of an electrical mishap sparking a blaze, said late on Thursday it had restored electricity to virtually all customers.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, Alex Dobuzinskis in Culver City, California, and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)

Homes destroyed, hundreds more evacuated as Los Angeles wildfires spread

Fire is seen in Simi Valley, California, U.S. October 30, 2019, in this social media image. Courtesy of Twitter @415FirePhoto/Social Media via REUTERS.

Homes destroyed, hundreds more evacuated as Los Angeles wildfires spread
By Omar Younis

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (Reuters) – More wildfires ignited near Los Angeles on Thursday, destroying homes and forcing evacuations, as the region faced a second day of gusting desert winds that have fanned flames and displaced thousands of people.

The fast-moving Hillside Fire grew to 200 acres (80 hectares) and was starting to consume homes near scrub-covered slopes in San Bernadino, east of Los Angeles, according to the San Bernadino County Fire Department.

At least six homes were destroyed or damaged and about 1,300 people had been ordered to evacuate. A helicopter and a small plane dropped water and retardant on the flames, according to Chris Prater, a fire department spokesman. A smaller brush fire was also reported in Jurupa Valley.

“The winds have probably been the biggest factor promoting this fire spread,” he said.

The region’s Santa Ana winds have been so extraordinarily dry, powerful and prolonged that the National Weather Service created a new alert level, issuing an “extreme red flag warning” through Thursday evening in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Two other major fires have charred the region since the start of the week.

The Getty Fire broke out near the Getty Center art museum in Los Angeles on Monday morning, burning chaparral up and down the mountain slopes around a major highway.

Officials ordered the evacuation of more than 10,000 homes in some of the city’s richest neighborhoods, although they began allowing some people to return on Wednesday as about 40% of the 745-acre (300-hectare) fire was brought under control.

The Easy Fire ignited early on Wednesday, sending flames racing up to the walls of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library atop a mountain in Ventura County’s Simi Valley northwest of Los Angeles. Some 30,000 residents were ordered to evacuate, along with an unknown number of horses in an area that is known for its ranches. County schools remained closed on Thursday.

Officials at the Getty Center and the Reagan Library were confident both complexes would be unscathed, thanks to various fire-prevention systems. These include, in the case of the Reagan Library, an annual visit by a herd of goats that eats away the surrounding flammable scrub. On Wednesday, helicopters doused the area around the library with water.

No injuries have been reported in the fires, although at least a dozen homes in Los Angeles have burned down.

The Santa Ana winds arrive in the autumn, sending hot, dry air down from the mountains out to the Southern California coast. Gusts of 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour) were recorded in mountainous areas around Los Angeles, and more powerful winds were forecast for Thursday morning.

Tens of thousands of people in the region were without power after a precautionary shutdown by the Pacific Gas & Electric Co <PCG.N>.

Investigators say the Getty fire was likely caused by a broken tree branch that was blown into power lines during high winds on Monday morning.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRE

In northern California, firefighters have been fighting the 76,000-acre (30,760-hectare) Kincade Fire in Sonoma County’s wine country for more than a week. That blaze has destroyed at least 189 homes and other structures but was listed as 30% contained on Wednesday.

PG&E acknowledged last week that the Kincade Fire started near a damaged transmission tower at about the time a live high-voltage line on that tower malfunctioned.

The company filed for bankruptcy in January, citing $30 billion in potential liability from a series of deadly fires sparked by its equipment in 2017 and 2018.

As many as 190,000 people were displaced at the height of the Kincade Fire, but some evacuation orders have since been lifted.

(Reporting by Omar Younis in Simi Valley, California, and Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and Frances Kerry)

Fast-moving fires near Los Angeles force more than 40,000 to flee

Fast-moving fires near Los Angeles force more than 40,000 to flee
By Stephen Lam

GEYSERVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – California firefighters on Friday sought to take advantage of a brief lull in high winds behind fast-moving wildfires that forced the evacuation of more than 40,000 residents north of Los Angeles and another 2,000 in the state’s wine country.

With winds abating, crews worked overnight to battle a newly-started fire about 40 miles (64 km) north of Los Angeles that was threatening 10,000 homes and businesses, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

Officials warned residents not to be deceived by the overnight lull, as the National Weather Service (NWS) forecast a pickup in hot, dry winds by Friday morning with gusts of 45 to 55 mph (72 to 89 kph) and temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).

“Let’s not let our guard down,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. She told a press conference 40,000 to 50,000 residents had been forced from homes by late Thursday with “numerous” structures destroyed.

California’s wildfires generally erupt in the fall as hot, dry Santa Ana winds blow westward from the desert after a dry summer. Last year, at least 85 people died in one of the deadliest such fires, known as the Camp Fire in Butte County.

The so-called Tick Fire, which began Thursday afternoon just outside the city of Santa Clarita, had consumed about 4,000 acres and was only 5 percent contained as of late Thursday, the county fire department said.

Another burst of high winds was expected over the weekend, said Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the NWS’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

To the north, where firefighters were battling a smattering of blazes, crews had restored power to most of the nearly 200,000 homes and businesses intentionally left in the dark because of risk of high winds downing electrical lines.

DAMAGED ELECTRICITY TOWER

Power had been shut off to residents from the Sierra Foothills to the North Bay and San Mateo and Kern counties.

But by early Friday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co (PG&E) said it restored power to most of its 178,000 customers in portions of 18 counties shut off, and it expected to have the rest reconnected by the end of the day.

While the cause of the worst of the blazes, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, has not been determined, it appears to have erupted near the base of a damaged high-voltage transmission tower owned by PG&E.

The company, a unit of bankrupt holding company PG&E Corp <PCG.N>, said in an “electric safety incident” report to the California Public Utilities Commission that one of its power lines malfunctioned at about the time and in the location of the fire’s origin on Wednesday night.

Neither PG&E nor the commission said whether the damaged tower or the malfunctioning transmission line attached to it were suspected of igniting the blaze, which has destroyed about a dozen homes and other structures.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said it is investigating. It listed the same place and time of origin for the fire as the tower incident reported by PG&E.

By early Friday, the Kincade fire had scorched about 16,000 acres and forced some 2,000 people to flee their homes, Cal Fire said.

No injuries have been reported and only 800 acres had been contained, it said.

Mandatory evacuations began with the 900 residents of historic Geyserville on Thursday, and continued climbing to 2,000 across Sonoma County through the day, the county sheriff’s office said.

Geyserville and nearby Healdsburg, part of which was under an evacuation warning, are hubs of upscale restaurants, wine-tasting rooms, inns and shops surrounded by hills dotted with vineyards about 75 miles (120 km) north of San Francisco.

(Reporting by Stephen Lam in Geyserville; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York, Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Scott Malone and Andrew Cawthorne)

California wine country fire began near damaged PG&E tower, 2,000 flee

California wine country fire began near damaged PG&E tower, 2,000 flee
By Stephen Lam

GEYSERVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – A wind-driven wildfire that forced some 2,000 people to flee homes in Northern California’s wine country on Thursday erupted near the base of a damaged high-voltage transmission tower owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co, utility and fire officials said.

The company, a unit of bankrupt holding company PG&E Corp <PCG.N>, acknowledged in an “electric safety incident” report to the California Public Utilities Commission that one of its power lines malfunctioned at about the time and location of the fire’s origin on Wednesday night.

It said a PG&E technician inspecting the site on Thursday found the area taped off by state fire department personnel who brought to his attention “what appeared to be a broken jumper on the same tower”.

PG&E had shut down some electric distribution wires in the area as a precaution against dangerously high winds at the time, but high-voltage transmission lines such as that in question were left on as they were deemed durable enough for the forecast conditions, the utility said in a public statement.

The transmission tower involved had been examined this year in PG&E’s wildfire safety inspection program, it added.

Neither PG&E nor the commission said whether the damaged tower or the malfunctioning transmission line attached to it were suspected of igniting the blaze, dubbed the Kincade fire, which has destroyed about a dozen homes and other structures.

The cause is being investigated, said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, which listed the same place and time of origin for the fire as the tower incident reported by PG&E.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection last January, citing more than $30 billion in liability stemming from devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018 found to have been sparked by its equipment.

The Kincade fire in Sonoma County was the worst of several blazes raging throughout California as PG&E and other utilities cut off electricity to nearly 200,000 homes and businesses in preventive blackouts to reduce wildfire risks from high winds.

Hundreds of miles to the south in the Canyon County community of Los Angeles County, a blaze called the Tick fire prompted evacuation of an estimated 40,000 residents. Flames consumed about 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) and destroyed an unknown number of structures, according to the Los Angeles City News Service.

HISTORIC TOWN EVACUATED

By Thursday, the Sonoma County blaze had scorched about 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares), Cal Fire said. No injuries have been reported.

Ground crews fought the blaze at close range with hand tools and bulldozers, assisted by water-dropping helicopters and airplane tankers carrying payloads of fire-retardant slurry.

The Sonoma County sheriff’s office ordered the evacuation of Geyserville, a town of nearly 900 people, founded in the mid-19th century and named for nearby hot springs and geothermal attractions.

A Reuters photographer saw about a dozen homes in flames in the town on Thursday.

By midday, mandatory evacuation notices covered a total of roughly 2,000 people, the sheriff’s office said. An evacuation warning in the northern end of the nearby larger town of Healdsburg, urged residents to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

Both towns, about 75 miles (120 km) north of San Francisco, are hubs of upscale restaurants, wine-tasting rooms, inns, and shops surrounded by rolling hills dotted by vineyards.

Large parts of California were under red-flag alerts this week following forecasts of hot, dry winds blowing into populated areas from deserts to the east.

The number of homes and workplaces without power could climb to more than 500,000 under worst-case scenarios for precautionary outages this week, according to PG&E, Southern California Edison <EIX.N> and other electricity providers.

PG&E said in a statement on Thursday it had shut off power for about 178,000 houses and businesses in northern California during an Oct. 23 public safety power shutoff (PSPS) event.

The company has restored power to 93% of those customers following announcements that the weather was “all-clear,” the statement said.

“Safety patrols, inspections and power restoration took place throughout the day and continues through the night,” PG&E said, adding that it expects power to be restored to all customers on Friday, unless any equipment is damaged and needs repair.

Marc Chenard, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center, said that while the winds have abated for Friday in northern California, the area is in for more high winds this weekend.

“Yes, it’s improving, most of the warnings there have been lifted for now,” Chenard said. “But we have another (wind) event coming in for Saturday and at least through Sunday. This isn’t over.”

Earlier on Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom, who called PG&E’s handling of that incident “unacceptable,” said the company appeared to have “significantly” improved its readiness for this week’s wildfire threat.

Chenard said that hot dry winds, called the Santa Ana winds in Southern California east of San Bernardino and down to San Diego are expected to continue through the weekend.

(Reporting by Stephen Lam in Geyserville; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Culver City, Calif.; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Leslie Adler and Lincoln Feast)

California wildfires force evacuations, cause power outages

California wildfires force evacuations, cause power outages
By Subrat Patnaik and Rich McKay

(Reuters) – California emergency officials on Thursday ordered hundreds of people to evacuate a historic wine country town north of San Francisco, and nearly 200,000 were without power, as a growing wildfire spread in Sonoma County.

Driven by strong winds, the Kincade fire engulfed some 10,000 acres (4,047 hectares) by Thursday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Sonoma County Sheriff issued a mandatory evacuation order for the town of Geyserville, home to almost 900 people.

A video posted on social media by a local reporter showed a glowing blaze against the still-dark backdrop of an early morning sky and a strong wind buffeting into the microphone.

Large parts of California were under red-flag alerts this week, suggesting a heightened risk of fire, amid high temperatures and powerful winds, officials said.

About 185,000 customers were without power in the state on Thursday morning, according to poweroutage.us.

More than half a million homes and businesses in the state could lose power this week as utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric <PCG.N> and Southern California Edison <SCE_pe.A>, cut off electricity as a preventive measure against wildfires.

Over 308,000 customers in seven counties, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura in southern California, were under consideration for Public Safety Power Shutoffs, Southern California Edison said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard said the worst of the winds would arrive later in the day and into Friday.

“It looks like at its worst, southern California will see wind gusts of 55 miles per hour (89 kph). Down in some of the coastal areas, the winds could reach 75 miles per hour (121 kph) later today,” he said.

Power lines could be knocked down, potentially igniting fires among arid trees and vegetation, according to earlier forecasts.

Bankrupt Californian power producer PG&E cut off electricity to more than 730,000 homes and workplaces in northern California earlier this month to try to reduce the risk of wildfires amid extremely windy and dry weather.

Chenard added that northern California could experience dangerous wind gusts of up to 45 mph.

“This is not going to abate until at least this weekend,” he said.

(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru and Rich McKay in Atlanta, additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

Wildfire threatens homes, prompts evacuations in Pacific Palisades, California

Smoke can be seen as a wild fire breaks out in the hills of Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, California, U.S., October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

Wildfire threatens homes, prompts evacuations in Pacific Palisades, California
(Reuters) – A wildfire raced up a steep hillside to threaten homes in the Southern California coastal enclave of Pacific Palisades on Monday, prompting evacuations as water-dropping helicopters and firefighters swarmed the area to battle the flames.

Live aerial video footage broadcast by KABC-TV showed tall flames raging along a ridge-line at the edge of a neighborhood, burning perilously close to several homes as authorities urged residents to flee.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said on the broadcast that winds were relatively light, giving firefighting teams at least one advantage, because there was less chance of burning embers being spread ahead of the flames.

Large, repeated water drops from firefighting helicopters appeared to be keeping the fire mostly at bay from the neighborhood. No injuries were reported.

Residents who had been trying to help douse the blaze with garden hoses from their backyards were seen scrambling for cover at one point when a large clump of vegetation burst into heavy flames.

The blaze in Pacific Palisades, located between Santa Monica and Malibu about 18 miles (29 km) west of downtown Los Angeles, came about two weeks after a major wind-driven wildfire scorched nearly 8,000 acres along the northern edge of Los Angeles, damaging or destroying dozens of structures and prompting evacuations of some 23,000 homes.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Culver City, Calif.; Editing by Matthew Lewis)