A red-flag warning has been extended through Saturday across much of Southern California as firefighters struggle to get a handle on several wildfires raging across the region.
The warning, which indicates extreme fire danger because of gusty winds and low humidity, will be in effect through Saturday in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, where fires have scorched more than 80,000 acres and destroyed many homes.
Communities both on the coast and inland were under threat from the Thomas fire. At 4 a.m., officials closed the 101 Freeway between Routes 126 and 150. According to the California Highway Patrol, that left no open routes between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The Thomas fire has scorched about 90,000 acres and carved a path of destruction that stretches more than 10 miles from Santa Paula to the Pacific Ocean.
As flames raged toward neighborhoods in Ojai, Carpinteria and Fillmore, officials issued new evacuation orders in Ojai Valley, notifying residents with an emergency cellphone alert. Authorities said they were helping residents of five assisted-living facilities evacuate, while people at Ojai Hospital were advised to shelter in place.
UCLA students are expressing their unhappiness with the way the university’s administration has handled communications about the Skirball fire at a time when students are preparing for final exams.
The Undergraduate Students Assn. Council and Graduate Students Assn. started a petition that has been signed by more than 10,000 individuals and will be sent to administrators Thursday.
Wednesday was “a day of great anxiety, tumult and stress for us all. Despite fearing for our safety, we were left in a state of constant limbo by the University, its staff and faculty,” the petition states. “Students were expected to decide between fulfilling academic and employment responsibilities and putting themselves in harm’s way — a decision no student should ever have to make.”
As four major fires burn throughout Southern California, many residents face mandatory evacuations.
The brush fires move quickly. A small flame can grow out of control in 30 seconds, and temperatures can reach 600 degrees at eye level, according to Ready LA, a city website for emergency preparedness.
Carole Nolte, owner of Co.min.gle, a novelty shop on Main Street in Ventura, took refuge in her store Wednesday afternoon so she could charge her smartphone. She wasn’t open for business but took advantage of working electricity in her shop.
Her condo, a two-minute walk away, has been without power since Monday night, a couple of hours before she was forced to evacuate because of the Thomas fire. The blaze came within about 200 feet of her home, but the condo was left unscathed.
Since then, Nolte has been waiting for the electricity to be restored to her home. She’s unsure when that will be but is trying to make the most of it until then.
On Little Tujunga Canyon Road at the Wildlife Waystation, staff members worked on little sleep to keep the wild and exotic animal sanctuary — and its residents — safe.
Martine Colette, founder of the Wildlife Waystation, kept her walkie-talkie close while she worked Wednesday, as firetrucks rolled in and out of the parking lot. Smoke billowed from the mountains nearby, sending ash through the air. Firefighters continued to put out spot fires throughout Wednesday.
Colette, who lives in a home at the center of the facility, woke up at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday to see the fire blazing nearby. She and her staff immediately began working to ensure the animals didn’t burn in their enclosures.
A series of Santa-Ana-wind-driven wildfires raging across Southern California have destroyed at least 180 structures, forcing thousands to flee and filling the region with smoke. Much of the reported structural damage has been in Ventura County, where the Thomas fire has already burned 65,000 acres. The fire jumped the 101 Freeway the evening of Dec. 5, threatening coastal towns. Here’s where some of the damage has occurred so far.
Firefighters scrambled Wednesday afternoon to make progress against the Skirball fire burning in Bel-Air before the return of strong winds that could blow the fire across the 405 Freeway.
The blaze had grown to 475 acres and was 5% contained by 3 p.m. Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft dropped retardant on the flames, while engine companies and hand crews worked to establish a line on the southern and western edges of the fire, near the 405.
“It’s critically important we get some containment” before the winds return, said Los Angeles Fire Department Deputy Chief Chuck Butler. “When the winds come up, they’re going to come out of the northeast, and they’re going to want to push the fire across the 405 Freeway.”