It’s been the most destructive wildfire season in California
history, and it’s getting worse.
Conditions in California are especially ripe for devastating
fires at the moment, with tinder-dry undergrowth; strong,
volatile winds; and terrain that’s difficult for firefighters
to traverse. Those natural catalysts are compounded by the
proximity of several current fires to large population centers.
In just the past three days, multiple fires have
started in the hills of Los Angeles and surrounding cities.
As of Wednesday evening, most of them were barely contained, if
A red flag warning
― alerting residents to conditions of extreme fire danger
― was in effect for much of Southern California through
Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, with
high winds expected to pick up around Los Angeles and Ventura
counties on Wednesday night into Thursday.
“We are still in a very active and dangerous
situation,” Ventura City Fire Chief David Endaya said in
a press conference
Wednesday evening. “We are doing everything we can. We are
facing dangers tonight and tomorrow. With the predicted wind,
it could become a worse event than it is right now.”
A map of the fires surrounding Los Angeles Wednesday morning.
Red and yellow icons indicate a fire that’s actively burning.
A gray icon marks a fire that’s 100 percent contained.
The largest of those, the Thomas fire, has so far burned over
90,000 acres and
had 5 percent containment as of Wednesday evening, according to
Ventura county officials. The fire has destroyed at least
150 structures (that number is expected to grow substantially ―
the latest incident report lists 12,000 structures as
threatened) and forced the evacuation of 50,000
The windy hills that birthed the Thomas fire haven’t seen a
decent rainfall in at least eight months, the Los Angeles Times
notes. And the strong Santa Ana winds that funnel through
the steep hills around LA, feeding and spreading fire as they
do, are projected to build in strength this week, peaking at
up to 80 mph on
“The prospects for containment are not good,” Ventura County
Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a news
conference Tuesday night. “Really, Mother Nature is going
to decide when we have the ability to put it out … it is
Though California has the largest fleet of
firefighting aircraft in the world, those planes
typically can’t drop fire retardant in winds higher than 30
mph, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
spokesman Scott McLean said at a news conference Wednesday.
At 11,337 acres, the second-largest fire, known as the Creek
fire, is burning homes on the west edge of the Angeles National
According to Angeles National Forest spokesman Nathan Judy,
1,500 firefighters are currently battling that fire alone,
seven of whom have suffered minor injuries. Ten helicopters in
the area are helping staunch the inferno, one of which captured
the above apocalyptic scene Tuesday.
“This is steep, rugged terrain
that’s difficult to move in,” Judy told the L.A. Daily
News. “Even though it’s been cooler, the winds are a
challenge. The winds are going to continue to be a challenge
today and throughout the week.”
A man prays as the Creek fire advances behind him in the
San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, a (comparatively) small 150-acre blaze known
as the Skirball fire has destroyed at least four homes near
the famed Getty Center museum complex west of downtown Los
On Wednesday morning, while the Los Angeles Fire Department
of the famously well-heeled Bel-Air neighborhood to evacuate,
commuters along Interstate 405 faced this surreal scene
This article has been updated with information from
officials on Wednesday evening.
- This article originally appeared on