Southern California Fires Rage On
The fires in Southern California continue to rage on. With what started as one fire Monday in Santa Paula has now spread as five separate blazes, only one of which has been fully contained.
The Thomas Fire: Started in Ventura County, is the largest fire still spreading and started just northwest of downtown Los Angeles in Ventura County.
The Creek Fire: Continues to spread just north of downtown Los Angeles, was in Lakeview Terrace and Sylmar.
The Rye Fire: Is still blazing near Santa Clarita.
The Little Mountain Fire: Near San Bernardino, has been 100 percent contained.
The Skirball Fire: Is the most recent of the five large fires that just began Wednesday morning near the Skirball Cultural Center in west Los Angeles.
Over 1,800 firefighters continue to battle the epic and erratic Thomas fire near Ventura. As of Wednesday night Thomas was only 5 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. Thomas has spread 96,000 acres and continues to spread. Little Mountain has been completely contained, Creek fire is only 5 percent contained and the most recent fire Skirball is only 10 percent contained. Firefighters are battling these blazes, but the nonstop fires make it difficult for firefighters to take a breather, literally. Exhausted from working all day and night, those battling the fire risk breathing in smoke and airborne embers irritating their eyes.
In addition to local and surrounding firefighters, California’s National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing out of Oxnard has teamed up to fight the blazes. Some members of the National Guard were evacuees themselves and at least three have lost their own homes in the fires, according to spokeswoman Maj. Kimberly Holman.
With the Northern California fires earlier this year in October and now these devastating fires in Southern California, the state has endured its worst year for wildfires on record. So why was this year so bad? One of the biggest reasons for the fires and the main reason it continues to spread is the powerful Santa Ana winds.
The Santa Ana winds are gusts of unusually powerful winds that happen every year. These gusts of 80 mph winds or more are pushing fires at higher altitudes so fast that the embers from the fire become small fires themselves. Another key reason for the massive spread of these fires is that the low humidity dried out most of Southern California. This made the land dry out even more and vegetation more flammable than usual. The five years of drought California suffered also heavily contributed. Finally, by design California’s canyons and hills make the terrain difficult for responders to navigate.
Millions of Californians were warned with a text alert from officials to prepare or evacuate for “extreme fire potential” early Thursday. In total so far the fires have destroyed over 300 homes including some in the prestigious neighborhood of Bel-Air, as well as businesses and other buildings. Hundreds of schools are closed for the rest of the week, highways have been shut down and nearly 20,000 people have evacuated the impacted area. The fires are acting fast and responders just as quickly to contain them.