A HOODIE-WEARING “hero” caught on video rescuing a rabbit from the California wildfires has been criticised for his actions. Footage of the man has been widely circulated across social media, showing the moment he braved the flames to rescue the wild rabbit on the side of a road near the Thomas Fire in Ventura County.
While many praised him for pulling over to save the animal, others were more critical, suggesting that he may have made things worse.
The New York Post reports that local animal experts have warned that any wildlife spotted near a blaze should be left alone — especially desert cottontails like the ones common to Southern California.
This is due to the fact that they are still giving birth to litters around this time of year and are typically keeping them safe underground in their burrows, according to Live Science.
According to the US Forest Service, wildfires actually tend to kill very few animals — with most going underground to protect themselves.
SIX FIRES RAGE ACROSS CALIFORNIA
Wildfires in California are continuing to rage, with six fires now blazing across the state, leaving a woman dead and two others burned.
The fires include the Thomas Fire (Ventura County), Rye Fire (LA County), Creek Fire (LA County), Skirball Fire (LA County), Liberty Fire (Riverside County) and Lilac Fire (San Diego County).
The Lilac fire, being fanned by Santa Ana winds in rural San Diego County, has burned 400 hectares only hours after starting. State fire authorities said more than five buildings have been destroyed, an unknown number has been damaged and more than 1000 others are threatened. Officials have said the fire is burning at a “dangerous rate” and smoke is said to be so thick that it’s covering the sun.
San Diego County officials have ordered mandatory evacuations due to the fast-moving fire.
The Liberty fire is reportedly now over 40 hectares, threatening some 250 homes.
The Thomas Fire continued its westward push, forcing a few hundred Santa Barbara County residents to be evacuated and the closing of coastal Highway 101 north of Ventura city.
In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, the Creek Fire destroyed at least 30 homes, blackened more than 4800 hectares and forced the evacuation of 2500 homes and a convalescent centre. According to the Cal Fire website, it is just 10 per cent contained.
The Rye Fire has threatened more than 5000 homes and structures northwest of Los Angeles.
The Skirball Fire in Los Angeles has forced hundreds of residents in the wooded hills near the affluent Bel-Air neighbourhood to evacuate and charred more than 60 hectares.
Three firefighters were injured and hospitalised in stable condition, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
State officials said the military was assisting with helicopters.
WOMAN FOUND DEAD
Meanwhile, a sheriff’s official says a woman has been found dead after a car crash in an area under a mandatory evacuation order.
Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Donoghue tells The Associated Press that the woman’s body was found on Wednesday night at the scene of a crash in the Wheeler Canyon area of Santa Paula.
Donoghue says the car was discovered off the roadway after what appeared to be a single-car crash. He says there were no witnesses to the crash, but no foul play is suspected.
Donoghue says investigators were still trying to determine if the death was connected to the wildfires or if the person was trying to evacuate from the area.
The woman’s name hasn’t been released and a cause of death is still being determined.
STARS EVACUATE AS HOMES UNDER THREAT
Meanwhile, a number of the world’s most expensive mansions belonging to celebrities are under threat as bushfires destroy parts of Los Angeles.
This is not a movie set. This is real life on a highway I take to the airport. My home is safe but a lot of my friends had to evacuate their homes due to this LA fire. My thoughts and prayers go to all families affected. Thank you to all firefighters and first responders pic.twitter.com/Qgbyh0EXLM
— The Miz (@mikethemiz) December 7, 2017
Celebrities such as WWE superstar The Miz, Jennifer Aniston, Chrissy Teigen, Chelsea Handler, Gisele Bündchen, Harrison Ford and Gwyneth Paltrow are all at risk of having their homes destroyed.
Australian supermodel, Nicole Trunfio, who is expecting her second child with musician Gary Clark Jr in five weeks took to social media to share her concerns.
“Just got to LA,” Trunfio wrote on Instagram, along with a news video, showing the fires burning. “Too close to my house.”
“Never thought I’d get to actually play what I thought was a hypothetical game of what would you grab if there were a fire. So far all I have is Luna, some limited edition Oreos and my Spike TV award,” Teigen tweeted as she evacuated.
She added: “We are fine and we will be fine. Thinking of everyone else affected and continuing my lifelong intense love of firefighters.”
Comedian Chelsea Handler was evacuated from her home. “Just evacuated my house. It’s like Donald Trump is setting the world on fire. Literally and figuratively. Stay safe everyone. Dark times.”
Lionel Richie took to social media to announce he was cancelling a scheduled performance to move his family to a “safer place” to escape the fire.
“Due to the devastating California Wildfires, and helping family evacuate to a safer place, I unfortunately have to cancel my show tonight,” Richie wrote via Twitter. “I look forward to returning to the stage this weekend and performing for my fans.”
Richie’s former wife and mother to Nicole Richie tweeted her thanks to her ex-husband for rushing to her aid.
“Lionel has been helping me evacuate. Thank God for him!” she tweeted.
Paris Hilton called the fires “terrifying” as she too was evacuated.
Gwyneth Paltrow, whose home was under threat, asked that, “God bless and protect our beautiful state and the men and women fighting these fires.”
Cher also took to Twitter to ask her followers to “please pray for my home state …. my birthplace, my beautiful California.”
Reality star Kim Kardashian tweeted out her support for her home state.
I pray everyone in Los Angeles is safe from these fires and THANK YOU to all of the fire fighters working so hard to keep everyone safe!
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 6, 2017
“I pray everyone in Los Angeles is safe from these fires and thank you to all of the fire fighters working so hard to keep everyone safe!”
Ruby Rose added her concerns: “These fires are so scary and I am hoping everyone is OK and praying for the people in those areas and the brave fire fighters and volunteers. My heart goes out to all the poor animals too.”
Actress Jennifer Tilly posted a photo of her trying to find a hotel room after being evacuated from her home.
“The fourth hotel we tried had a room,” she wrote. “Seems everyone is evacuating the wildfires.”
Ariana Grande‘s mother, Joan Grande, and her brother, Frankie Grande, expressed thanks for the fire department as they fled their homes.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, freeing state funds and resources to assist.
More than 250,000 homes were without power and all schools in the Ventura Unified School District cancelled classes.
The raging flames have destroyed 200 homes and forced 200,000 people to be evacuated.
But strong winds are hampering efforts by water-dropping helicopters and planes to tackle the fires.