Critical fire weather continues throughout Southern California; worst conditions yet to come


At least 30 homes have been destroyed, and seven firefighters suffered minor injuries battling that blaze, which broke out as a brush fire at around 3:43 a.m. Tuesday and was whipped by winds gusting at 70 miles per hour, fire officials said.

"We are in the beginning of a protracted wind event", Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told the Los Angeles Times.

The Thomas Fire spanned 65,000 acres (about 101 square miles) in Ventura County, which sits just north and west of Los Angeles. Firefighters battled to save multimillion-dollar homes in the path of the flames. The Creek fire burned at least 11,000 acres and the Rye fire destroyed at least 7,000 acres.

The so-called Skirball Fire was reported before 5 a.m. on Wednesday in Bel-Air, and resulted in the complete closure of the 405 freeway, which is now partially reopened.

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It's the same region of Los Angeles where hundreds of homes burned in the famous 1961 Bel Air Fire.

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced that at least 265 schools in the San Fernando Valley will be closed through the weekend.

California's top firefighter says the state is in for the worst Santa Ana wind conditions it's ever seen. Almost 1,800 firefighters and a fleet of aircraft are fighting the flames but the blaze is only 5 per cent contained and an estimated 12,000 buildings are in danger. "Authorities said they were helping residents of five assisted-living facilities evacuate, while people at Ojai Hospital were advised to shelter in place".

The freeway was likely to be impacted for the rest of the morning, Stewart said.

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Wind-whipped wildfires are burning extremely dry terrain along the northern and western edges of Los Angeles, and, more extensively, Ventura County, northwest of the city, for a third day.

But even Wednesday, the size of the Ventura fire continued to grow. Firefighters rushed to attack the fires before winds picked up again.

The color-coded system showing the expected strength of the winds driving the region's fierce wildfires has reached uncharted territory, pushing past red, which means "high" into the color that means "extreme". Tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes, and dozens of structures have burned.

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