California fires update: Inferno looms over Los Angeles – hurricane-force winds fan flames
- At least one person has been killed as a result of the wildfires spreading across California
- Thousands have been evacuated from their homes
- More than 250,000 homes left without power, reports say
- Wildfire covering more than 50,500 acres in Ventura County, officials said
- High winds are expected to fan the flames
Hundreds of schools have been forced to close their doors as raging wildfires wreaked havoc on Southern California, forcing about 200,000 people to flee for their safety.
Almost 250,000 homes are without power and huge swathes of highways have been shut down as officials try to slow the path of the flames.
Hundreds of firefighters have been working nonstop to battle the blazes racing across hillsides and through neighbourhoods, destroying homes and businesses in their way.
And merciless winds, predicted to reach the strength of a Category 1 hurricane in mountainous areas, are threatening to intensify the already devastating fires.
The hot, dry Santa Ana winds are expected to whip up the flames in the four areas – known as the Thomas fire, the Rye fire, the Creek fie and the Skirball fire.
Red flag warnings have been extended across much of Southern California through Saturday, while high winds warnings are in effect for mountains and valleys in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the largest of the four fires, started Monday night as a 50-acre brush fire rapidly grew to 10,000 acres in just four hours, authorities said.
By midnight last night it had swelled to more than 108,000 acres – and officials say they have only managed to contain just five per cent.
California fires update: Wildfires spread to Los Angeles
Images from the region show as the flames race down the mountainside, akin to lava.
CBSLA’s Crystal Cruz said: “We’ve been hearing sparks and loud booms and we think it’s power lines or transformers that have caught fire and blasted off.
“The fire was on top of the hillside and now it’s much closer, huge flames ripping down the mountain, sending smoke and flames west.
“It almost looks like a volcano erupted with lava flowing down the hill.”
Evacuations are now mandatory for parts of Ojai and Ojai Valley as a 20-mile path of destruction opens up even wider from Santa Paula to the coast.
Although California increasingly faces a year-round threat of flames, the fires have come as a surprise with many expecting to see snow on the hilltops at this time of year.
Images from the region show as the flames race down the mountainside destroying homes
Neighbour Jake Sandell said: “It’s unbelievable. It hurts because I’ve never seen anything like this.
“My dad’s been a firefighter for 35 years, and you just don’t expect things like this.
“It’s like I was expecting this year to see snow on that mountain and now it’s on fire.”
The blaze has already burned around 96,000 acres of land and is expected to intensify due to the increasing winds.
Maps released by CAL Fire show that the Thomas Fire is currently located just north of Ventura City and Santa Paula.
The map below shows the area where officials hope to contain the fire.
Evacuation zones are marked with a blue border, while the fire’s latest perimeter is highlighted in red.
California fire map: The fires have spread across more than 26,000 acres
Thousands have been evacuated from their homes
While the Skirball fire, the smallest of the wildfires currently, is still producing a threat to heavily populated areas of Los Angeles and drawn widespread attention.
Firefighters battled to save multimillion-dollar homes in the path of the flames, which also forced the closure of the San Diego (405) Freeway in both directions, and warned that if the winds picked up again in the evening the situation could become even more dire.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told reporters at an afternoon news conference: ”We are expecting some extreme wind behaviour this evening.”
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It almost looks like a volcano erupted with lava flowing down the hill
The Creek fire and Rye fire also continue to burn today with little containment.
With all four blazes growing rapidly out of control, officials said they could not give a precise number of homes destroyed as the flames in burned neighbourhoods still were too intense.
A video posted on Instagram shows a Los Angeles County Fire helicopter manoeuvring through heavy smoke to make a water drop on the Skirball Fire.
And the thick smoke from the fires could even be seen from the International Space Station, according to Astronaut Randy Bresnik.
The wildfire covers more than 50,500 acres in Ventura County
California fire: Helicopter drops water to try and quell the blaze
He tweeted: “I was asked this evening if we can see the SoCal fires from space. Yes Faith, unfortunately we can. May the Santa Ana’s die down soon. #Californiawildfire.”
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, freeing state funds and resources to assist firefighters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it approved grants to help cover the cost of emergency work for the Thomas Fire and two others.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his thoughts and prayers were with everyone in the path of the wildfires.
Mr Trump tweeted: ”I encourage everyone to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials.
“THANK YOU to all First Responders for your incredible work.”