LOS ANGELES — Disaster can strike everywhere — even in some of America’s richest and most exclusive neighborhoods.
Six wildfires have destroyed homes and caused the closure of one of America’s busiest freeways around Los Angeles while forcing nearly 200,000 people from their homes. All total, 141,000 acres have burned in the fires, which stretch from L.A. to San Diego. They are being fed by strong winds and dry conditions.
“It was dark until I saw a gigantic ball of orange,” motorist Tiffany Lynette Anderson wrote on Instagram Wednesday.
Anderson was driving to work on Interstate 405 between South Central Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley when she encountered the Skirball Fire. The fire scorched hundreds of acres and burned several homes in the Bel-Air neighborhood just north of Beverly Hills.
The fire  was so intense that it forced authorities to close the 405 — one of America’s busiest freeways during rush hour, The Los Angeles Times reported. A mandatory evacuation area for the fire included the Getty Center, a popular art museum.
One of the wildfires, the Thomas Fire in Ventura, is the largest December wildfire in California’s history.
‘I Was Going To Die In This House’
The fire is burning near some of the city’s most famous neighborhoods including Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard, Brentwood and UCLA. The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) campus is close to the fire but had not been evacuated.
“I was going to die in this house,” resident Beverly Freeman told The Times. She woke up to find her neighborhood burning. “The flames have never come so close.”
Freeman got out safely but lost all her belongings.
“It’s been years since anything here has burned at all,” Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Cody Weireter told The Times. “You’ve got heavy, heavy brush, you’ve got the dryness, obviously, we haven’t had any rain at all. A lot of the fire is topography-driven, which already becomes dangerous. The wind is going to increase that twofold.”
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