Schools and freeways closed, thousands of people forced to flee as multiple wildfires tear through Southern California – By Jeremy Berke & Bryan Logan (businessinsider.com) / Dec 6 2017
A series of wildfires are burning out of control in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in Southern California.
The first and largest blaze, dubbed the Thomas Fire, started on Monday evening in Ventura County. As of Wednesday morning, that fire had burned more than 50,500 acres. At least 12,000 buildings were threatened and 150 buildings were destroyed.
The flames have crossed the 101 Freeway near Solimar Beach in Ventura County, and have now reached the Pacific Ocean. Mandatory evacuation orders now impact 200,000 people, and authorities have closed the 405 Freeway, causing gridlock throughout the region.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, freeing up state funds to help tackle the wildfires.
“This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we’ll continue to tackle it with all we’ve got,” Brown said “It’s critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so.”
Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters that the fires’ growth has been “absolutely exponential.”
The blazes were caused by weather conditions that have aligned to make the LA area somewhat of a tinderbox. The region is under a “red flag” advisory for weather conditions due to Santa Ana winds that are expected to blow through Friday, the National Weather Service said .
Wind speeds of up to 80 mph were recorded on Tuesday, and the wind is supposed to continue through Friday, making containment all but impossible. On Wednesday, the winds subsided slightly, with gusts in the 30 mph range, though forecasters expect the winds to pick up on Thursday with gusts of up to 45 mph expected, according to The LA Times.
“All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people, and protect structures,” Lorenzen said.
As the Ventura fire raged, another fire near the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar — called the Creek Fire — broke out early Tuesday morning and has continued to grow.
By Wednesday morning, the Creek Fire had charred more than 11,000 acres across Sylmar, Lake View Terrace, and Shadow Hills. Dozens of homes were burned, according to the Los Angeles City Fire Department. There was zero containment of the Creek Fire as Wednesday morning.
Authorities said a portion of the 210 Freeway will remain closed through at least Wednesday morning, and mandatory evacuations remai in effect for canyon and foothill areas in the path of the flames on both the north and south sides of the 210 Freeway, according to local NPR affiliate KPCC. The Los Angeles Unified School District said at least 11 schools would be closed on Wednesday.
Another blaze — the Rye Fire — broke out near Santa Clarita late Tuesday morning, and was 5% percent contained as of Wednesday morning. More than 500 firefighters were on the scene. A portion of Interstate 5 at State Route 126 was closed for a time, but the California Highway Patrol reopened all lanes late Tuesday.
The National Weather Service warned on Monday — hours before the fires broke out — that if a fire occurs, “there will be the potential for very rapid fire spread,” and “extreme fire behavior.”
National Weather Service
“You can only imagine the impact this weather is having on the flaming front,” Richardson said, per the LA Times. “This wind is what’s being dealt with at this point in time. It makes things very … difficult because we’re chasing the fire, we’re chasing the fire trying to get ahead of it, trying to get in front to provide structure defense.”
California has been ravaged by wildfires in recent months. In October, a series of fires destroyed communities in Northern California’s Napa and Sonoma counties, in what is considered the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. Experts say it will take years for the state to recover.
Here’s a map of the location of the fires:
PB/TK – I’ll ask this again, since there’s another massive fire in Cali, have we become desensitized to the news of fires and their destruction in Cali?