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Multimillion-dollar Bel-Air homes burn, busy freeway closes in latest LA-area wildfire

Wildfires are ripping through the Los Angeles area. Here a car passes by a wall of flames on the 101 highway as it reaches the coast near Ventura, California, about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Mark Ralston/Getty Images

Multimillion-dollar homes in Bel-Air burned and other areas of the upscale neighborhood were evacuated Wednesday during the latest wildfire to rip across in Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reported. The fire closed a portion of the 405 Freeway, one of the busiest in all of California, causing a "traffic nightmare" during morning rush hour.

The Skirball fire broke out around 4:52 a.m. near the 405 and close to the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Some motorists sat trapped on closed portions of the freeway, waiting on the California Highway Patrol to help guide them to safety, according to the Times.

“It’s been years since anything here has burned at all,” Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. 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.”

Along with the wind, heavy smoke and ash are making it difficult for firefighters to contain the fire. Initial reports indicated four to six homes were destroyed. It was unclear how many were damaged.

"We're still trying to get our arms around it," Weireter told the Times. "We're still trying to get resources on scene and still trying to get our hose line in place and get our box around this."

Four wildfires are burning in the Los Angeles area, the Times reported.

The Times devoted a website to live updates on the wildfires. On Wednesday, it reported the Ventura County fire consumed 50,500 acres and forced up to 50,000 people to flee their homes. An estimated 50 buildings were damaged, a figure that is expected to significantly rise. Wildfires have also damaged areas of Sylmar, Santa Clarita, and San Bernandino in California.

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