Friday, December 08, 2017

Be 'Ready to GO!'  Southern California Warns Residents as Fires Rage

A wall stands in the burned-out Vista del Mar Hospital after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California, on Wednesday. (Credit: Mark Ralston Via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Fanned by gusting winds, wildfires raged in densely populated Southern California for a fourth day on Thursday, forcing 200,000 people to flee their homes with dangerous conditions forecast until Sunday.

The blazes have destroyed hundreds of houses and forced many Los Angeles-area schools to close.  Flames hopscotched over highways and railroad tracks, and residents rushed to evacuate their homes with only minutes’ warning, some leaving behind holiday gifts.  People feared for the safety of animals from cats to llamas.

Authorities said the four major fires - ranging from Los Angeles up the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara County - were whipped up by the region’s notorious westward Santa Ana winds that could reach hurricane strength.

The winds, which blow in hot and dry from the California desert, could reach 75 miles per hour (120 km per hour), authorities said.

The National Weather Service said Santa Ana winds were blowing on Thursday afternoon, and the state CAL FIRE agency said gusty winds and extremely low humidity would continue through Sunday.

“Prepare now to ensure if evacuated you and your family are ready to GO!,” CAL FIRE said on Twitter.

The fires, which broke out on Monday and Tuesday, have reached into the wealthy enclave of Bel-Air on Los Angeles’ West Side. Some major highways in the densely populated area were intermittently closed.

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