Multiple fires are raging in Southern California. A series of Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires have destroyed hundreds of structures, forced thousands to flee and smothered the region with smoke in what officials predicted would be a pitched battle for days.
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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.”
Officials urged residents in the mandatory evacuation area to leave and suggested that residents west of the freeway begin packing and forming a plan for where to go if evacuations became necessary.
The Los Angeles Police Department asked drivers to avoid navigation apps, which are steering users onto more open routes — in this case, streets in the neighborhoods that are on fire.
Following officers’ directions and obeying the roadblocks “will help us, and it will help L.A. City Fire,” said LAPD Cmdr. Blake Chow.