- A dramatic 50-acre brush fire erupted Wednesday morning in the Sepulveda Pass area of Los Angeles
- Commuters caught the fire on their cellphones as they carefully made their way to work on the I-405
- Eventually the fire prompted mandatory evacuation orders and the complete closure of the freeway
- There were no reports of injuries, but flames were approaching several hillside homes amid 25 mph winds
- The fire burned up the area near LA’s exclusive Bel Air neighborhood and the Getty Center for the arts
- HBO halted production on Westworld, which films in the area, citing safety fears; CBS did the same for SWAT
Drivers on their way to work in Los Angeles were faced with terrifying scenes along a major freeway after the fifth California wildfire this week left the hillside next to their road ablaze.
The inferno – named the Skirball Fire – has consumed more than 50 acres of land and threatens LA’s exclusive Bel Air neighborhood, UCLA and the Getty Center for the arts alongside the I-405 freeway.
The freeway is now shut down as 125 firefighters and several helicopters attempt to get the blaze under control – but early-morning commuters managed to capture this stunning footage.
As they traveled gingerly passed the ferocious fire, their cars passed just feet away from the deadly – and ever-spreading – flames.
Several people captured the surreal moment on video and shared them on social media.
‘Not the typical morning commute…’ one driver tweeted dryly.
The Skirball Fire was spotted at 4:52am on Wednesday along Interstate 405 in Sepulveda Pass, which carries the heavily traveled highway between LA and the San Fernando Valley.
The early-morning traffic was already flowing through Sepulveda Pass when commuters noticed a glow around the Getty Center.
ARE THE FIRES CONTAINED?
The Thomas Fire in Ventura remains uncontained despite efforts by more than 1,100 firefighters
The Creek Fire, near Sylmar, is uncontained.
The Skirball Fire, which is consuming Bel Air, is not contained.
The Little Mountain Fire, near San Bernardino, is around 50 per cent contained.
The Rye Fire, near Santa Clarita, has been reduced overnight by firefighters.
As the day wore on the road was closed down in both directions and Bel Air evacuated – with several homes in the famous neighborhood catching fire.
Winds were dying down early Wednesday, but are expected to pick up speeds in the evening – perhaps up to 50mph, causing fire to spread further, CNNreported.
The Skirball Fire is just one of five blazes now scouring Southern California, following the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, the Rye Fire near Santa Clarita, the Creek Fire near Sylmar and an as-yet-unnamed fire near San Bernardino.
As the countryside became swathed in choking smoke, on the TV shows Westworld and SWAT was postponed, as producers recalled cast and crew amid fears that they might be put at risk by the largely uncontrollable blazes.
HBO said in a statement that Westworld was filming its second season in an area near two Los Angeles County fires on Tuesday but producers decided to shut down and avoid any danger to actors or crew members.
It said the show will resume filming when conditions there are safe.
Filming on SWAT was also suspended; it’s unclear when producers on that series hope to get their cast and crew back to work.
Among the many hundreds of buildings threatened by the Thomas fire is Johnny Cash’s former home in Casitas Springs.
The country musician moved to a hilltop house in the the California community in the 1960s, and as of Tuesday evening it was surrounded by a literal ring of fire. It’s not yet known whether the building was damaged.
Late Wednesday morning, Donald Trump retweeted a FEMA announcement that it was providing grants for the first three blazes – the Thomas, Rye and Creek fires.
He added: ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of California’s wildfires. I encourage everyone to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials.
‘THANK YOU to all First Responders for your incredible work!’
It’s not known what sparked the San Bernardino fire – the fourth of the five fires so far this month – but two people were found badly burned near its point of origin close to a McDonald’s restaurant.
As of the end of Tuesday, fire officials said it had damaged some garages, but no houses had burned and hundreds of homes and businesses had been saved.
That stands in contrast to the four other fires, which have consumed hillsides, homes and streets throughout a swathe of Southern California.
One even devoured 30 miles of land between its origin point and the Ocean in just a day.
The Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, who hold workouts near the largest of Southern California’s fires, have also canceled Wednesday’s practice.
On Tuesday, 65 miles northwest of LA, the residents of a mobile home park in Casitas Springs were working together to keep it from burning.
They doused homes and fences with water and built mounds of dirt to keep the flames at bay.