Crews battling California wildfires gird for return of high winds

Reuters
Santa Ana winds that have stoked wildfires across Southern California, destroying hundreds of buildings and forcing evacuations of 200,000 people, are expected to return in force.
Reuters
Reuters

Firefighters knock down flames as they advance on homes atop Shepherd Mesa Road in Carpinteria, California, U.S. December 10, 2017.

Santa Ana winds that have stoked wildfires across Southern California, destroying hundreds of buildings and forcing evacuations of some 200,000 people, are expected to return in force, authorities warned.

Firefighters gained some ground battling the fires that have burned over the past week as the winds eased on Saturday. At least one person has been killed.

The Skirball Fire in Los Angeles was 75 percent contained, while the Creek and Rye Fires in Los Angeles County were 85 percent and 80 percent contained, officials said.

The largest blaze, the Thomas Fire, has blackened 155,000 acres in Ventura County and was only 15 percent contained as of Saturday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

Winds and the rugged terrain have hampered firefighting efforts there, authorities said. The National Weather Service is forecasting top wind speeds to increase to 55 miles per hour on Sunday, up from the 40 miles per hour recorded on Saturday.

After gusty winds overnight, authorities early on Sunday morning ordered residents to evacuate much of Toro Canyon, a few miles east of Santa Barbara, as the Thomas Fire threatened that area. The oceanside city of Carpinteria was placed under a voluntary evacuation order, as well.

"The fire continues to threaten structures in various parts of the cities of Ventura, Ojai, Casitas Springs, Santa Paula, Carpinteria, Fillmore and the unincorporated areas of Ventura County and Matilija Canyon," Cal Fire's website said on Saturday night.

Authorities lifted evacuation orders earlier on Saturday for sections of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

The blazes have destroyed nearly 800 structures, and a 70-year-old woman died Wednesday in a car accident as she attempted to flee the flames in Ventura County.

North of San Diego, the 4,100-acre Lilac Fire was 50 percent contained by Saturday, officials said.

A brush fire broke out Saturday night in the city of Monrovia in Los Angeles County, prompting temporary evacuations, the U.S. Forest Service said on Twitter.

Among those evacuated included a group of Boy Scouts who were camping in the area, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Crews knocked down the 3-acre blaze and there were "no structures damaged," the city of Monrovia said on its web site.

California Governor Jerry Brown issued emergency proclamations last week for Santa Barbara, San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura counties, freeing up additional resources to fight the fires.

President Donald Trump issued a federal proclamation that enables agencies to coordinate relief efforts.


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