Wildfires wreak havoc in California

Published: 07 December 2017 Image credit: Reuters

fire

Rapid wildfires whipped by hot, dry Santa Ana winds have wreaked havoc in southern California, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee the flames.

The first and largest of several blazes, dubbed the Thomas fire, broke out on Monday evening in the coastal city of Ventura.

By Tuesday evening it remained zero percent contained, and had charred more than 50,000 acres, fire officials said.

More than 250,000 homes were without power and all of Ventura Unified District schools were closed, as authorities urged residents to be at the ready.

“This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we’ll continue to attack it with all we’ve got,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement.

“It’s critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so.”

More than 27,000 people were evacuated overnight in the area. One firefighter was injured, but has since been treated and released from hospital, officials said.

fire

Live stock animals try and keep away from the flames in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. Image: Reuters

In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, a state of emergency was declared as the so-called Creek Fire blackened more than 11,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 2,500 homes.

“We’re chasing the fire, trying to get ahead of it, trying to get in front to provide structure defence,” Los Angeles County Chief Deputy David Richardson told reporters as smoke billowed across the city during an afternoon briefing.

The latest blaze, called the Skirball Fire, erupted on Wednesday and burned nearly 150 acres in the affluent Bel-Air neighbourhood of Los Angeles.

At least four homes were scorched, as well as a building at a winery owned by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Dozens more properties were threatened.

fire

A home burns in Ventura. Image: Reuters

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that his thoughts and prayers are with those in the path of the wildfires.

“I encourage everyone to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials,” he wrote on Twitter.

“THANK YOU to all First Responders for your incredible work.”

There have been no reports of fatalities caused by the fires, but KABC-TV reported that one person was killed in a car crash while fleeing Ventura. 

Santa Ana winds, which blow in from the California desert, were forecast to top out at 115km/hour and remain strong throughout the week.