Strong winds and dry conditions threaten to create a renewed onslaught from a number of massive wildfires across Southern California - with high wind speeds helping to drive the blazes further across the landscape.
Officials said strong Santa Ana winds, which have already helped feed a quartet of fires that have scorched tens of thousands of acres, could gust between 50 and 80 miles per hour.
Firefighters were continuing to battle on multiple fronts. The Skirball fire, which began as a brush fire and has been menacing the upscale Los Angeles neighbourhood of Bel Air, was at 5 per cent containment by Thursday morning after it had spread over some 475 acres and destroyed at least four homes.
In northern Los Angeles County, firefighters had gotten the 7,000 acre Rye Fire within 15 per cent containment after making progress overnight. The Creek Fire had destroyed or damaged 30 structures and threatened a dozen communities as firefighters grappled with rugged terrain to bring the 12,600 acre blaze within 10 per cent containment. Some 2,500 people were dispatched to battle the two blazes.
And in Ventura County, the largest of the four conflagrations, the Thomas Fire, had grown to some 96,000 acres as firefighters contained 5 percent of the blaze amid mass evacuations that forced thousands of people out of their homes. Officials estimated that 150 structures had been destroyed.
In addition to facing mass evacuations, with authorities imploring people to have their bags packed and heed evacuation orders immediately, residents of the region faced health hazards from the smoke-choked air. Air quality monitors urged people to limit their outdoor activity.
“I’ve got to be honest, we’re concerned about everything,” said Armando Hogan, an assistant Los Angeles fire chief.