Southern California Wildfires Burn Out of Control


Forecasters predicted that winds could cause fires to spread further, threatening more upscale homes and the acclaimed Getty Center museum.

"As expected winds have increased dramatically", Cal Fire, the agency responsible for fire protection in the state, said on Twitter.

The unrelenting blaze has destroyed more than 12,000 homes in and around the coastal city of Ventura, forcing thousands of people to race for safety.

Homes there have been damaged and more than 400 firefighters have been sent there.

"This just shows us that there is no fire season anymore", McLean said.

As neighborhoods turned into scenes of vast ruin and freeways closed down, California got a frightening replay of the October infernos in Wine Country that killed 44 people, destroyed 8,900 structures and, like the Thomas Fire, were driven by nighttime windstorms that blasted flames from more rugged areas into communities built along the edge of the wildland.

Southern California Edison, the electric utility serving Ventura County, may shut down its power lines in high-wind areas this week to prevent more fires from breaking out, the company said Wednesday.

A firefighter was injured when he was struck by a vehicle during the response to the blaze, said the Ventura County Fire Department.

Additional evacuations were called for late on Wednesday in the Ventura area, where 50,000 people had already fled their homes over the last three days.

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The museum closed Wednesday while the fire was held back. The fire was five percent contained as of Wednesday afternoon.

"Very strong winds" blowing from the northeast to the southwest were causing the fire to balloon, he said, warning Angelenos to be ready to flee at a moment's notice.

The fires are the second outbreak to ravage parts of California this autumn. By comparison, the Times reports the Creek fire has burned through some 14,000 acres, while the Rye fire has burned about 7,000 acres.

The "Skirball" fire also prompted authorities to close the 405 Freeway, a major commuting corridor.

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Each of the fires was pushed by dry Santa Ana winds, with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. Fire officials said the weather was making it hard for aircraft and helicopters to fight the blazes.

"Based on the apparent location of the origin of both the Thomas fire in the Ventura and Santa Barbara area and the Creek Fire in Sylmar, and the performance of SCE's system, SCE has no indication that the company's facilities were a source of these fires", it said in a press release.

The Skirball Fire - named after the Skirball Cultural Center in northern Los Angeles - burned 475 acres in the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Center, The Los Angeles Times reported.