California Wildfires Rage Out of Control, Hundreds of Thousands at Risk
Thousands of Southern Californians fled their homes Tuesday as an immense, incredibly fast-moving brush fire pushed by howling Santa Ana winds scorched parts of Ventura County.
By Tuesday afternoon, none of the fire had been contained and it had grown to 50,000 acres — about 78 square miles — in just 19 hours.
Fires are breaking out across the so. Cal. Region… Be fire safe. Firefighters are working very hard to minimize damage to property. Evacuations are taking place in many places in Southern California
— VCFD PIO (@VCFD_PIO) December 5, 2017
Some homes were ablaze in the northern part of Ventura, a city of more than 100,000 on the Pacific coast, reports CBS3.
The fire — the largest of several wind-driven blazes in Southern California — forced sheriff’s deputies to knock on doors to warn residents to evacuate Monday night. About 150 buildings, including homes and an evacuated Ventura hospital, have been destroyed.
On Ventura’s northern edge, at least 10 homes and may trees were burning in one neighborhood, sending thick smoke and dangerous embers into the gusty air.
An evacuee, Catherine Wastweet, stood on a street Tuesday morning and looked up to the foothills where her neighborhood was aflame.
“We live up there … but we just don’t know whether our house is burned down or not, because we can’t even see through all of the smoke,” she said.
• Time to go: About 27,000 people were under mandatory evacuation in Ventura County as fire officials warned the powerful winds could push flames further into the city of Ventura.
• Started Monday: The brush fire, called the Thomas Fire, was first reported at Steckel Park, just north of Santa Paula, around 6:30 p.m. The cause wasn’t immediately known.
• Blazing fast: By early Tuesday, the fire was burning at nearly an acre per second. At that speed, it would have covered Manhattan’s Central Park in about 15 minutes.
• Gutted by flames: Vista del Mar Hospital, an 82-bed mental health facility in northwestern Ventura, was fully evacuated two hours before it burned, county fire engineer Richard Macklin said.
• State response: Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency for Ventura County on Tuesday morning, freeing state resources such as the National Guard to support response efforts.
• One injury: A fire battalion chief was injured in a traffic collision during the fires Monday night, and released from a hospital after being treated for “bumps and bruises,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.
• Intense fire: “The fire is still out of control and structures continue to be threatened throughout the fire area,” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said on a local emergency preparedness website.
Other fires: There are at least two burning in Los Angeles County. The Creek Fire has grown to 11,000 acres, and the Rye Fire to about 1,000 acres.
Santa Ana winds and dry conditions
The Thomas fire jumped to thousands of acres with startling speed as Santa Ana winds, blowing as fast as 60 mph, carried its embers. It engulfed dry chaparral and climbed through steep terrain.
Satellite images show how fast it lit up Ventura County at night.
The winds were part of the season’s “strongest and longest” Santa Ana event. The Santa Anas are strong, dry winds that high-pressure systems push from east to west, from the mountains and desert areas down into the Los Angeles area.
They could make the situation even worse Tuesday, with gusts of 50 to 60 mph. A lull is possible Wednesday, but winds could again pick up Wednesday night and Thursday. Dry conditions won’t help. The county is in a period of moderate drought, the US Drought Monitor says. No considerable rain fell in November in the area, which hasn’t seen a month of above-average rainfall since February 2016.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
December 5th, 2017
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