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.”
A red flag warning has been extended through Saturday across much of Southern California as firefighters struggled to get a handle on several wildfires raging across the region.
The warning, which indicates extreme fire danger due to 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.
Weather officials expect winds to pick up Wednesday night through Thursday, bringing “damaging” gusts of 50 to 70 mph that could cause trees and power lines to fall, and fire to spread rapidly. They also warned of isolated gusts of up to 80 mph in the mountains.
By early afternoon, the fires had subsided but firefighters continued to guard the multimillion dollar homes in Bel-Air from the blazes that earlier in the morning came within feet of the properties.
The firetrucks spread out on Moraga Drive; one fire truck guarded every three houses, said Don Batiste, an engineer with the Los Angeles Fire Department. Firefighters said they weren’t sure how the Skirball fire had spread to Morago Drive.
There are about 36 homes in the gated community. All are surrounded by hills that were engulfed in flames Wednesday morning. Neighbors said well-known public figures and celebrities such as Jerry West and Rupert Murdoch live on the street. Magic Johnson once owned a house on the street, neighbors said.
Brent Clark, 58, stood on the roof of his Faria Beach home and began watering the wooden roof tiles. Past the railroad tracks and Highway 1, flames made their way down the hillsides as they burned through acres of chaparral.
Looking at the flames, Kay Clark, 58, turned her attention to a cypress tree near their home.