(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Hundreds of Los Angeles area schools shut their doors on Thursday as raging wildfires wreaked havoc on Southern California, forcing about 200,000 people to flee and destroying hundreds of houses.
Authorities feared the four major fires would be whipped up by the region's notorious westward Santa Ana winds that could reach hurricane strength.
The winds, which blow in hot and dry from the California desert, could reach 75 miles per hour (120 kph) on Thursday and create "extreme fire danger," according to an alert sent by the countywide emergency system in Los Angeles.
The fires, which broke out on Monday and Tuesday, have reached into the wealthy enclave of Bel-Air on Los Angeles' West Side while creating traffic nightmares in the densely populated area.
No civilian casualties or fatalities have been reported but three firefighters were injured, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.