The winds and dry conditions of Giant Santa Ana continued to fuel major wildfires in southern California on Thursday when Ventura County firefighters said the battle there could last for more than a week.
On Thursday night, the Thomas fire had consumed 115,000 acres, destroyed 427 structures in Ventura and damaged at least 85 more, authorities said. Another 12 structures were destroyed in the unincorporated area of Ventura County.
"Until the wind stops blowing, there really is not much we can do to control the perimeter," said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen as the teams battled the flames. for the third day "This is a fight that we will probably fight with for a couple of weeks".
That grim outlook came just hours after authorities said they discovered a woman's body in a burned area, and after strong winds, residents fled the coastal community of Faria Beach. As smoke billowed and palm trees burned, a police officer drove through the settlement with a howling megaphone: "Mandatory evacuation" and "Please go the other way, the road is closed."
In Ojai, 40 mph winds call less than a mile from the city.
"We are mounting an aggressive air strike," said Robert Welsbie, captain of Ventura County firefighters, as he watched Ojai's flames. "The fire has suddenly spread because of the speed of the erratic winds."
The Thomas fire, believed to have destroyed hundreds of homes, was one of a half dozen wildfires in Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside counties and San Diego.
Although it is not uncommon for the Santa Ana winds to blow at this time of year, climate experts say it is unusual for them to combine with such dry conditions.
With relative humidity in the digits of the coastal mountains, the air is the driest "The [relative] humidity at this time along the coast is much drier than you would normally see in the interior desert in the summer, "said Swain. Once you go down to 1% or 2%, you will be almost as low as physically possible. "
Firefighters are concerned that the Thomas fire will push Santa Barbara County and threaten the town of Carpinteria, said Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Rich Mackln.
" Let's start moving with him, "Macklin said of the flames, adding that about 2,000 firefighters are fighting the fire.
Crews are concerned about erratic winds near the water that are reaching between 30 and 40 mph, he said, with gusts of 45 At 50 mph
As he spoke, plumes of smoke drifted toward the ocean, obscuring visibility so badly that it was difficult to see a few hundred meters ahead, distant booms shot off in the distance, which Macklin attributed to "a tank of something released."
The National Weather Service forecast winds of 28 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph in the Faria Beach area until 5 or 6 p.m., said meteorologist Tod d Hall.
"If they exceed the afternoon portion, it will start to spin," Hall said. A gentle breeze on land could help firefighters fight the flames on Faria beach Thursday night, he said, but the rest of southern California can expect sustained Santa Ana winds for the rest of the day.
Authorities also urged residents to evacuate wooded areas near Ojai, on the northern front of the forest fire.
In the wooded areas near Ojai, the tornadoes of flames began to rise up the slopes of a remote canyon that Jayson Kaufman calls home. To the chagrin of the Ventura Sheriff's deputies who issued a mandatory evacuation order the night before, Kaufman was between 15 and 20 inhabitants of the Matilija canyon who refused to leave their rustic cabins and geodesic domes tucked into dry shrubs.
"We are monitoring the situation, and the clarity of the air, up close," Kaufman said, looking at the clouds of smoke that filled the skies at both ends of the densely forested canyon. "This morning, the sky was very clear until 10 am Now we are playing by ear."
That kind of speech angered the authorities, who were concerned about the state of the holdouts but could not divert teams and firefighters into the 5-mile-long canyon early Thursday morning because Highway 33 north of Ojai was Sown with electric cables, telephone poles and boulders knocked down.
Other residents of Matilija Canyon who had followed the evacuation order were also concerned but could not verify the state of the holdouts because the communications systems did not work.
"I left the canyon almost immediately after sheriff's officers knocked on our door and told us to get out," said Michael Kampman, 31, of half a dozen people gathered at a barricade in the mountains, awaiting news about the state of its neighbors. "I know several people who stayed behind."
A woman's body was found Wednesday night at the scene of a car accident on Wheeler Canyon Road. The cause of death and the identity of the woman have not yet been determined, sergeant sheriff of Ventura County. Kevin Donoghue said
Across Southern California, winds that officials feared would blow over trees, knock down power lines and bring fires to communities at risk were not as strong as expected on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning. ] But the winds were still dangerous and erratic, and powerful enough to cause large fires in the area.
"Many of these signs that we observe are not as impressive as we had seen them before," said meteorologist David. Candy. "The 80 mph bursts are now bursts from 60 to 65 mph, it's not much of a difference, but I think anything down is a good thing."
In Sylmar, where the Creek fire is burning, 12,605 acres have been destroyed and the fire was contained by 10% by Thursday morning. The authorities confirmed the destruction of 15 structures and 15 other damages, with 2,500 structures still threatened. There are 110,000 people evacuated by the fire, said Los Angeles Fire Chief Branden Silverman.
Two firefighters were hospitalized after fighting the Creek fire, Silverman said, one was injured while operating a bulldozer and the other when a propane tank exploded. It is expected that both will recover.
The Creek fire ignited in the Angeles National Forest around 3:45 a.m. Tuesday, then the Santa Ana winds pushed him westward, Silverman said.
"Firefighters face strong winds, poor access and rugged and rugged terrain," said a report from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
There are still homes at risk outside the area of active fire, said Nathan Judy, National Forest Officer of Angels
"If that fire goes off, our containment lines, there are homes in the area, in the west area -sur, "said Judy. "So we're going to be very attentive to that this afternoon to make sure the wind does not blow those embers in those houses."
The Skirball fire in Bel-Air, which has destroyed four houses and damaged 11 others, remained on 475 acres with 20% containment late on Thursday morning. Everyone in the 3.2-square-mile evacuation zone, about 700 homes, was told to stay away, said LA Fire spokesman Peter Sanders.
"If you are a developer in the fire zone in Bel-Air, get the" Until the evacuations are lifted, "said Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, adding that construction teams should not be working at this time.
Thursday's firefighting efforts focused on preventing the flames from jumping off the 405 freeway to the Getty Center and Brentwood, as the Santa Ana winds have the potential to push the fire towards the west.
Everyone in those areas should be ready to evacuate, authorities said, during the night and in the morning, firefighters focused on continuing to establish a containment line around the fire and turning off the hot spots inside the area. burned.
"The advance of the fire has stopped," Sanders said. "The wind is a big concern for today."
On the other side of 405, the residents west of the fire were ready. s to evacuate if necessary but grateful that the winds were weaker than expected.
As a gust of dry wind leaves the air in Brentwood, Bob Greer, 81, opened the trunk of his white Toyota.
It was full of suitcases, photographs, documents and medicines. "The only thing you can not replace are the photographs," he said.
Greer and his wife served in the Air Force. Greer retired 15 years ago.
"I'm ready to go in a minute if we need to evacuate," he said. "When you are ready, you are not afraid"
Times Times editors Sonali Kohli and Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.
Times Times writers Matt Hamilton, Louis Sahagun, Laura Nelson, Brittny Mejia and Jaclyn Cosgrove contributed to this report.
sonali.kohli @ latimes.com
joseph .serna @ latimes.com
6:20 pm.: This article was updated with new information on lost structures and burned acres.
2:15 pm : This article was updated with information about the Thomas fire.
12:40 pm : this article was updated with information on wind conditions, the Thomas fire, Faria beach and the Skirball fire.
11:05 a.m.: This article was updated with information about Thomas's fire and wind conditions.
9:45 a.m.: This article was updated with information about the Creek and Skirball fires.
This article was originally published at 8:30 a.m.