But Mr. Gonzales was trying to stay positive. His parents live in a mobile home park near Ojai and recently bought the mobile home next to them. "Therefore, we will have a place to stay when everything is fixed," he said.
"In general, we're doing very well," Gonzales said. "We are all together and all the O.K. We will rebuild I plan to die in Ventura, I'm not leaving," he said.
But for Mr. Beeker's amazement while the houses of Wheeler Canyon burned on the ground, his ranch did not. "All the buildings, the well, everything if they do not touch," he said. "And the horses are alive," he said.
Mr. Beeker said that when he and Kristine returned to the house on Tuesday night, the curtains had been torn down and thrown into the middle of the house. "As far as I know, the firefighters arrived," he said. "The doors were open and everything that was flammable was thrown away from the house, climbed through a window and threw all the curtains and things into the room."
Strong winds are normal, but it is not usually so dry.
The strong winds that are driving fires are a normal feature of late fall and winter in Southern California. What is different this year – and what makes fires particularly large and destructive – is the amount of dry vegetation that is ready to burn.
"The unusual thing is the fact that the fuels are so dry," Thomas Rolinski said. , a senior meteorologist from the United States Forest Service. "Normally at this time of year we would have had enough rain so this was not a problem."
The situation in Southern California is similar to the one that occurred in northern California in October, when strong winds warmed fires that killed 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes. But while northern California has had a large amount of rain that has essentially eliminated the threat of fire, the south has remained dry.
"We have not had any significant rainfall since March," Rolinski said.
Helping to spread fires are the Santa Ana winds, which occur when cold, high-pressure air over Nevada and Utah descends into southern California, accelerating and warming. Typically, Santa Ana conditions occur on approximately one third of the days in December and January, Rolinski said.
When strong winds last only one or two days, Rolinski said, the region can often survive without a major fire starting and spreading. "But it's hard to spend six days after this," he said.
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