California wildfires now fanned by hurricane-force winds
Firefighters trying to keep blazes from spreading throughout the Los Angeles area are now facing hurricane-force winds in addition to flames.
At least four major fires had engulfed large tracts of land in the metro area’s north and west, with the Thomas Fire reaching 90,000 acres by Thursday morning.
It is only 5% contained, according to Cal Fire authorities, with tempered hopes for progress throughout the day given a surge in the Santa Ana Winds.
The Thomas Fire burns along a hillside near Santa Paula, California.
(KYLE GRILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
The winds are expected to reach 80 mph, roughly equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane, and Cal Fire said that there was an “extreme” increase in fire potential stretching south towards San Diego.
About 150 homes have been destroyed so far because of the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, with others such as the Skirball Fire closer to Los Angeles also destroying structures in the Bel-Air neighborhood.
Southern California fires force thousands to evacuate
LAFD Deputy Chief Chuck Butler said that more than 45,000 people had been evacuated because of that blaze, part of what Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said were 150,000 people forced from their homes altogether.
On Thursday morning, a woman was found dead after a car crash on a roadway outside Santa Paula that remains under a mandatory evacuation order. Investigators were not immediately able to determine if the death was connected to the wildfires.
John and Julie Wilson sort through the remnants of their burnt out home after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California, on Wednesday.
(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
The Santa Anas, a yearly phenomenon in the region, have this year come after a particularly dry autumn, which created a tinder box that has now been set alight.
Erin Mellon, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Water Resources, said that climate change is believed to have influenced the recent cycle of droughts and record rainfall.
With News Wire Services
With Chris Sommerfeldt