Dry Santa Ana winds will roar back to life in San Diego County over the weekend, and some of the strongest gusts could hit the area of the Lilac fire, according to the National Weather Service.
“The winds will begin to gradually pick up on Saturday afternoon, mostly in the East County foothills, from Julian to Alpine,” said Alex Tardy, a weather service forecaster.
“By sunrise Sunday, the winds could be gusting 55 to 65 mph in the foothills. Then the winds will spread out. It looks like they’ll gust 20, 30 and maybe 40 mph where the Lilac fire is. And some of the winds will spread all the way to the coast.”
For 24 hours since the Lilac fire broke out Thursday, Pat Bailey has been searching for her 93-year-old husband, Ralph.
“He’s been missing since yesterday morning,” she said, after checking the evacuation shelter at Palomar College on Friday morning.
She said her husband is slightly built, gray-haired and bent over and uses a walker. He may have been wearing a turquoise T-shirt, and had a blue and white parakeet with him. Friends helped her call police, fire and sheriff’s officials.
All Los Angeles Unified schools closed because of the wildfires will reopen Monday, the district announced.
“The decision to reopen schools was based on improved air quality and the lifting of mandatory evacuations that affecting school communities,” a district advisory stated. Over the weekend, the district is employing crews to install new air filters at the closed schools, and to otherwise prepare them for the return of students.
Many schools across Ventura, Riverside, San Diego and Los Angeles counties were closed Friday because of the fires.
With a fleet of four fixed-winged aircraft, 15 helicopters and more than 1,000 firefighters, state fire officials said Friday they are confident they can keep the Lilac fire at bay and avoid further mandatory evacuations.
An estimated 10,000 residents were evacuated when the Lilac fire broke out near the 15 Freeway in Bonsall on Thursday afternoon and destroyed at least 85 structures, many of them homes.
The fire has grown to 4,100 acres and was 0% contained Friday morning, said Cal Fire San Diego spokesman Kendal Bortisser.
Individually, none of this fall’s fires in Northern California came close to the acreage of the 132,000-acre Thomas fire in Ventura County, though combined, the blazes up north scorched more than 240,000 acres.
The deadliest fire in Northern California, the Tubbs, burned 36,807 acres and was responsible for 22 deaths, sweeping through swaths of Santa Rosa.
Though wind speeds were comparable, “You had 10 large fires within the fires two hours up in Northern California” when the firestorms began, said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean, compared to just a few in Southern California.
Hospitals across Southern California reported that high numbers of patients with breathing problems caused by this week’s wildfires visited emergency rooms.
Health officials in Ventura, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties warned of high pollution levels caused by smoke. The microscopic particles in smoke can penetrate deep into the lungs, creating a hazard for those who already have heart or lung problems such as asthma, emphysema or COPD.
Accustomed to the highly-regimented life of the racetrack, hundreds of thoroughbreds frantically galloped together Thursday trying to escape the blazing Lilac wildfire.
Terrified, the speedsters stampeded through Bonsall’s San Luis Rey Downs horse-training facility, whinnying, rolling their eyes and thundering through thick smoke as the fire quickly consumed the barns where they had spent the morning serenely munching hay.
The fire arrived at the sprawling 500-stall complex on Camino Del Rey about one mile east of Highway 76 a bit before 2 p.m., causing ever-more-frantic public address system calls to move the horses to the facility’s one-mile track.
Fire officials said residents in Ventura County who quickly obeyed evacuation orders were the main reason why confirmed deaths linked to the fires have been avoided.
“It’s not easy to evacuate so many people, especially with a fire moving this fast,” said Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Scott Quirarte.
Nearly 27,000 people obeyed the alerts that appeared on their phones and which they received from officials who ordered the evacuation at the start of the Thomas fire, Quirarte said. “People didn’t wait around. People followed the orders, and there wasn’t any delay.”