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Windy Thursday brings new fires, evacuations in California

by Diamond Naga Siu
Dec 7 2017, 3:29pm

Smoke saturated the air, a fiery haze hid the city’s iconic skyline and kids stayed at home as the ritziest parts of Los Angeles — Bel Air, Ojai, Brentwood and its neighboring areas — were engulfed in flames that broke out Wednesday morning and have been burning ever since.

The Skirball wildfire, burning just across the freeway from the Getty museum, is just one of several across Southern California that firefighters are struggling to contain as winds up to 88 miles per hour threaten to make matters worse.

So far, more than 200,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders prompted by the unprecedented slew of fires blazing throughout the greater L.A. area that began over the weekend. In Los Angeles’ Ventura County, the Thomas fire has already burned through an area more than twice the size of Washington, D.C. And smaller brush fires broke out Thursday morning in Malibu and San Diego, fanned by unusually strong and prolonged Santa Ana winds.

“I’ve got to be honest, we’re concerned about everything,” assistant Los Angeles fire chief Armando Hogan told the New York Times Thursday.

Currently parts of the 101, 405 and 5 freeways, three of the busiest transportation corridors that cut through L.A. County, are closed, in addition to over a dozen other highways and roads. The LAPD has warned drivers with GPS systems not to follow driving instructions because some navigation routes were leading drivers into the path of the fire.

Here are the latest updates:

  • New fires south of L.A. started Thursday afternoon in Orange County and San Diego, prompting school evacuations. UCLA and UC Santa Barbara both cancelled classes for at least the rest of the week. More than 300 schools are currently closed due to the fires.
  • More than 300 homes, businesses and buildings have been destroyed so far, according to the New York Times.

  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday afternoon that 20 percent of the Skirball fire and 10 percent of the Creek fire are currently contained. The fire department also says that 15 percent of the Rye fire is contained.
  • Officials say they found the body of a woman in a car near Ojai, where the Thomas fire spread overnight. Her cause of death and identity have not yet been disclosed.
  • Two firefighters were reportedly injured battling the Creek fire, which started Tuesday. One was hurt while operating a dozer, and the other when a propane tank exploded. Both were hospitalized and are expected to make full recoveries, the LA Times reports.

  • The air quality in Ventura County has been classified as hazardous by the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, which also issued a boil water advisory for people drinking tap water. In Los Angeles, air quality is currently rated at “unhealthy.”

  • California officials requested assistance Wednesday night from seven different states: Montana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado and Utah.