Wildfire forces thousands to flee homes north of Los Angeles

Rodiano Bonacci
Dicembre 7, 2017

Wildfires continued raging across Southern California on Wednesday, with a new blaze that ignited in the early morning threatening one of the ritziest parts of Los Angeles.

Dozens of schools were closed, as was Santa Monica College.

People watch as firefighters fight to save multimillion-dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive after a fast-moving fire swept into Ventura.

When the Thomas fire broke out Monday evening, the winds were so strong that water-dropping aircraft were grounded and firefighters on the ground could not keep pace with the flames. Tuesday saw gusts of over 50 miles per hour (80 kph).

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Skirball Fire has led to the evacuations of 700 homes, one apartment building and an elementary school in the city's Sepulveda Pass.

"The prospects for containment are not good", Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a news conference Tuesday. "Really, Mother Nature is going to decide".

But with wildfires in Southern California now burning and Santa Ana winds predicted to rage through Friday, "SCE may turn off power to certain circuits in areas where there are predicted extreme winds", Edison spokesman Brian Leventhal told the Chronicle. It has spread so far, the Pacific Ocean may be the only thing keeping it in check.

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Ventura County, promising to attack the fire "with all we've got". Authorities have opened 16 evacuation centers throughout the Los Angeles area.

By the end of the day Wednesday, fires had burned more than 95,000 acres, mostly in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles.

Campus senior Blake Knutson's family evacuated their Ventura home Tuesday morning.

"This just shows us that there is no fire season anymore", McLean said.

Firefighters in Southern California are used to clusters of wind-driven fires in the fall.

"It is sad", Keasler said.

"As a neighborhood restaurant, we are anxious sick for our customers and neighbors and friends", she said in an email.

"All I had time to do was get up, get dressed and leave and help others", said Terry, who with more than 600 others spent the night on a Red Cross cot in what is normally a livestock center, with her Maltese-poodle mix pup by her side.

Winds will gradually weaken Friday and Saturday, officials said.

For many in the industry, it was a déjà vu experience after Northern California was hit by wind-whipped fires throughout the Wine Country.

Additional evacuations were called for late Wednesday in the Ventura area, where 50,000 people had already fled their homes over the last three days.

"We have lost structures, we have not lost lives", he said. Hardly any measurable rain has fallen in the region over the past six months.

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