Firefighters progress in combating forest fires in California
Will Carr reports on the efforts to keep the flames
California Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday that the destructive forest fires have been raging in the southern part of the state are “the new normal.”
“We are ready for the fire fighting on Christmas,” Brown said after surveying damage from a deadly Ventura County fire that has caused the most destruction and is still burning. The governor warned that the drought and climate change mean California is facing a “new reality” where lives and property are constantly threatened by fire, at a cost of billions of dollars.
In spite of southern California, entering what is considered the wet season, there is hardly a drop of rain. That could spell more of a disaster for a region that just came up this spring from a yearslong drought and now the fire brigade on the edge because of parched conditions and no end in sight for the typical fire season.
Even as firefighters made progress with the six major forest fires from Santa Barbara to San Diego County and most of the evacuees were allowed to return home, predicted with gusts of up to 50 km / h until Sunday, a threat of flaring up of existing brands or the spread of new. High fire risk is expected to be in January.
Ventura County fire official: the Damage is ‘overwhelming’
Overall, the fire destroyed nearly 800 homes and other buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced more than 200,000 people to flee the flames that have burned more than 270 square miles since Monday. A death, so far, a 70-year-old woman who crashed her car on an evacuation route, is attributed to the fire in Santa Paula, a small town, next to Ventura where the fire started.
The Ventura blaze continued to burn in the rugged mountains in the Los Padres National Forest, near the small town of Ojai and in the direction of a set up for the preservation of endangered California condors. While many evacuation orders were lifted, new ones were established as the fire grew.
Brown said that he had witnessed the “vagaries of the wind,” that had destroyed some houses and left others, and concern for those who lost everything.
“What do you say?” he asked. “If you lose your house and your stuff and people lose their animals, it is a horror and it is a horror we want to minimize.”
California fireman: I’ve never seen anything like it
The firefighters were on high alert for dangerous fire potential even before the first brands broke out. On Dec. 1, they began planning for extreme winds forecast in the coming week.
Ken Pimlott, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that the authorities were prepared for destruction at the level of 2003 and 2007 firestorms in Southern California, and possibly in Northern California, which killed 44 people and destroyed nearly 9,000 homes and other buildings in October.
Monday, officials had brought in the fire department from the northern part of the state as reinforcements and conduct, engines, bulldozers and aircraft.
On Tuesday, they brought in more helicopters from the National Guard and “every last aircraft that we could find in the nation,” said Thom Porter, south-chief of the California Department of Forestry and fire protection.
The air quality continues to worsen as forest fires ravage California
The military provided a C-130 aircraft for fire fighting, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency services. More than 290 fire engines came from Montana, Utah, New Mexico, Idaho, Arizona, Oregon and Nevada.
But as the flames met ferocious wind, the crews were largely powerless to stop them. Even fire-attacking planes were helpless and are based on times through the night, hard wind and smoke.
If the fires in Ventura and Los Angeles county, firefighters from other countries were already in place north of San Diego on Thursday when a big fire broke out and quickly spread in the Fallbrook area, which is known for its avocado groves and horse stables in the rolling hills.
“We had a lot of resources in the field very quickly about this incident, but unfortunately, within a few minutes the fire had gotten out of hand and is well-established, and necessitated massive evacuations,” said Steve Abbott, chief of the North County Fire Protection District.
Race horses to eat freely as California wildfire approaching training facility
The fire swept through the San Luis Rey Training Facility, where he killed more than 40 elite thoroughbreds and destroyed more than 100 homes — most of them in the Rancho Monserate Country Club retirement community. Three people were burned trying to escape the fire that continued to smolder Saturday.
Most of this week’s fires were in places that have burned in the past, including one in the upscale Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel-Air that burned six homes and another one in the city rugged foothills over the community of Sylmar and Santa Paula.
The fire in Fallbrook was no exception. Ten years ago, during a deadly flood of the Santa Ana wind-driven fires, flames wiped out most of the more than 200 homes in the Valley Oaks Mobile Home Park.
Memories of that blaze were fresh as flames approached Thursday, and sheriff’s deputies told residents to leave immediately.
By the time he got the order to go, Mateo Gonzalez had already helped his brother go out of his place in the neighborhood and packed all his important possessions.
In 2007 firestorm, he had almost no warning before his house was destroyed, only four months after moving in.
“We were not prepared for the first time. This time we were,” said Saturday, the day after he returned to his undamaged home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.