Dec. 6 (UPI) — California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for a wildfire that’s charred more than 50,000 acres near Greater Los Angeles, killed one person and injured a firefighter — and shows little sign of slowing down.
On Wednesday, several homes in Los Angeles’ Bel-Air area were burning as the Skirball fire caused the closure of the 405 Freeway as well as evacuations — covering 50 acres by 8 a.m.
“It’s been years since anything here has burned at all,” Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Cody Weireter said. “You’ve got heavy, heavy brush, you’ve got the dryness – obviously, we haven’t had any rain at all. A lot of the fire is topography-driven, which already becomes dangerous. The wind is going to increase that twofold.”
The Thomas Fire has so far ravaged Ventura County, with the help of strong winds. Officials said the flames have destroyed nearly 200 homes.
Late Tuesday it had reached Solimar Beach near the Pacific Ocean. Brown’s emergency declaration covers Ventura County.
As of Tuesday evening, the fire was zero percent contained.
“This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we’ll continue to attack it with all we’ve got,” Brown said. “It’s critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so.”
The strong winds are expected to remain constant through Thursday, peaking at night, before they begin to subside Friday.
The 50-mph winds not only helped spread the fire but they also grounded air tankers. Wind gusts blasting L.A.-area hilltops reached nearly 70 mph, officials said. More than 1,100 firefighters are working to extinguish the blaze.
In the past few years, rain has come before the Santa Ana winds. This year, however, none has fallen in three months — making firefighters’ work even more challenging.
Some say the destructive blaze is unlike anything they have seen before.
“We’ve lived in Ventura for 19 years,” resident Mike Patterson said. “We’ve had a couple fires, but nothing like this.”
Two firefighters were injured battling the Creek Fire, another blaze that has popped up in Los Angeles.