Videos Show Three Wildfires Tearing Through California, Thousands Evacuate
"Resources couldn't even get in front of it."
Two brush fires ripped through Ventura and Los Angeles County on this week, burning across over 18,000 acres combined by Friday, and forcing 75,000 homes to evacuate in communities still reeling from a mass shooting just one day before.
The first fire — the Hill Fire — broke out at 2:04 p.m. Thursday near Hill Canyon. About fifteen minutes after the blaze emerged, the brush fire trapped drivers on US 101, according to CNN.
“Extreme fire behavior, extreme winds — resources couldn’t even get in front of it. It was all about getting people out of the path of the fire,” explained Ventura County fire engineer Richard Macklin in a Twitter update Friday morning. “We weren’t even engaging the fire at some points because of the wind event.”
The Woolsey fire joined the Hill fire within the hour, igniting at 2:25 p.m. that same Thursday afternoon in Rocketdyne, south of Simi Valley. By 3:30 a.m. on Friday, the flames expanded to cover 8,000 acres. Despite the work of more than 400 firefighters, the fire remained at 0 percent containment and dealt a significant amount of structural damage.
As of Saturday morning, calmer winds helped firefighting efforts on the third day of the blaze, reported ABC 7.
Many areas remain under mandatory evacuation, including California State University Channel Islands and Point Mugu Naval Base, although some areas are downgrading to voluntary evacuation.
Santa Ana Winds Make Fires Difficult to Tame
A combination of low humidity and Santa Ana winds have made firefighters’ jobs difficult, as the strong, dry gusts can reach 35 to 55 miles per hour. In steep terrains, which force firefighters to take to the skies, it’s a Sisyphean task.
“We’re doing our best to attack this fire from the air, but extreme winds prohibits our ability,” Ventura County Fire Captain Stan Ziegler told the Los Angeles Times. Divided resources between Hill and Woolsey heighten the challenge.
Aided by high southerly winds, the fast-moving Hill fire will likely blaze its way to the Pacific, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. The path of the Woolsey fire is leading officials to rush evacuations from Malibu.
A third major wildfire consuming 70,000 acres of Butte County prompted acting governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency at 3 p.m. Thursday. In a statement released Friday, the Butte County Sheriff reported five fatalities from the blaze called Camp Fire.
“We are still reeling, but we are also very resilient.” says Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, whose district includes Thousand Oaks. “This is a very stressful time, many of our first responders haven’t slept.”