Southern California fires force thousands to evacuate, vicious wind ground-water-dropping aircraft


Forest fires sparking apocalyptic destruction

Jonathan Hunt reports from Ventura, California

A series of wind-whipped fires that have parts of Southern California in a smouldering scene of destruction continued to rage Wednesday, as the vicious gusts of wind that fueled the flames held aircraft used in the shooting is usually grounded.

The largest and most destructive of the fire, an 85-square-meter blaze known as the “Thomas Brand” in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, had almost reached the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday evening after the start of 30 km inland from the coast a day earlier.

The blaze is now estimated at 50,000 acres with zero percent containment. It is pushed by strong Santa Ana winds from the east as it consumes vegetation that have not burned in decades, according to FOX 11 Los Angeles.


Firefighters race to save Christmas as a wildfire claims home

“The prospects for the inclusion not good,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a press conference Tuesday. “Really, Mother Nature is going to determine when we have the opportunity to take it out.”

Those fierce winds, with gusts of more than 50 mph on Tuesday continued to drop water from planes and helicopters mostly grounded because it’s too dangerous to fly them in those conditions.

A wildfire is burning along the 101 Freeway Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Ventura, California.

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Fire commanders hoped to have them back in the air on Wednesday, but all indications were that the wind will be whipping – fanning the fire that spurred evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people, destroyed nearly 200 homes and remained mostly out of control.

While it glows in the South of California brought memories of the firestorm two months ago further to the north, which killed 44 people, no deaths and only a handful of injuries had been reported as of Wednesday morning.


“This fire is very dangerous and spreads quickly, but we continue to attack with everything we have,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement, as he declared a state of emergency in Ventura County. “It is important that residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if to do that.”

The “Thomas Brand” jumped the center line of U. S. Highway 101 to a rocky beach in the northwest of the Ventura, bringing new evacuations, although officials said the sparse population and the lack of vegetation in the area so it was not too dangerous, and the highway was not closed.

A wildfire continues to burn as the red glow is reflected on the beach Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Ventura, California.

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The fire had destroyed at least 150 structures, but Todd Derum, a commander, said he suspects hundreds of houses are already lost, though the firefighters have not been able to assess them. Mansions and modest homes alike were up in flames in the city. Dozens of houses in a neighborhood burned to the ground.

Lisa Kermode and her children back to their home Tuesday after evacuating Monday to find their home, and in the world in ashes, including a christmas tree and presents they had just bought.

“We have a knot in our stomach, come back here,” Kermode told the Associated Press. “We lost everything, everything, everything, all our clothes, something that is important to us. All of our family heirlooms — it is not the type of road, it is completely gone.”

A wildfire consumes a house Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Ventura, California.

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

John Keasler, 65, and his wife Linda drove out of their apartment building as the flames approached, then stood and watched the fire burn on the ground.

A man rides his bicycle past a home consumed by a wildfire on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Ventura, California.

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

“It is sad,” Keasler said. “We love this place. We lost everything.”

The blaze also destroyed Vista del Mar Hospital, a psychiatric hospital that specializes in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I burst into tears,” Sandy Case, who lives next to the facility, told the Los Angeles Times. “It broke my heart.”

Smoke fills the sky near Hansen Dam in San Fernando Valley as a wildfire burns in the area in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

While the “Thomas Brand” may be the largest forest fire in the region, a separate blaze known as the “Creek Fire” in the foothills north of Los Angeles burned 30 structures and forced more than 100,000 people from their homes.


An estimated 600 firefighters were at the blaze, which is being pushed by the sustained winds of 25 mph, together with gusts of wind up to 45 km / h, according to FOX 11.

The smoke of the Creek wildfire in the San Gabriel Mountains, the second set behind the Hills of Hollywood, the home of the Hollywood sign, looms over Los Angeles Tuesday morning, Dec. 5, 2017.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Fire is not typical in Southern California this time of year, but can break if the dry vegetation and lack of rain combine with the Santa Ana winds. Hardly any measurable rain has fallen in the region over the past six months.

The so-called Santa Ana winds have long contributed to some of the region’s most catastrophic fires, which blow from the inland in the direction of the Pacific Ocean, accelerate as they squeeze through mountains and canyons.


Thousands flee wildfire in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @travfed

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