Southern California

SoCal Wildfires: Residents Not Out of the Woods Just Yet

Southern California has been hit hard by four major fires that have put tens of thousands of people under evacuation orders and destroyed nearly 200 homes and buildings, a figure that is almost certain to grow.

Total damage tallies have lagged as fire agencies focus on battling the flames.

Crews battling the Thomas Fire in Ventura County witnessed rapid spread overnight. Several thousand new evacuations were ordered in Ojai, a small town with resorts, galleries, eateries and wilderness activities that serves as a getaway destination. As of Thursday morning, 96,000 acres had been burned in the fire that started Monday evening.

Evacuations were ordered in Santa Barbara County for several hundred residents of the beach city of Carpinteria. Highway 101 was closed intermittently from LA to Santa Barbara due to flames and smoke.

In Sylmar, the Creek Fire was 10 percent surrounded and had burned 12,605 acres as of 7 a.m. Thursday. Firefighters expect wind gusts of 50 to 70 mph in strong Santa Ana conditions throughout the day.

In the Rye Fire, 7,000 acres were burned as of 7 a.m. Thursday. Crews made progress overnight, however, Cal Fire officials told Santa Clarita residents to stay vigilant because strong offshore winds were expected to return.

Firefighters battling the Skirball Fire are challenged by high winds, poor access, and steep, rugged terrain. There are still mandatory evacuations in place. Officials briefed the public Thursday morning saying the community is "still not out of the woods." Crews have 5 percent of the fire surrounded. So far, 475 acres have burned.

The Skirball Fire is burning in the exclusive Bel Air community, where multimillion-dollar houses give the rich and famous sweeping views. Authorities tallied four homes destroyed and 11 damaged but their assessment is not complete.

Flames there also burned a wine storage shed at media mogul Rupert Murdoch's 16-acre Moraga Vineyards estate and appeared to have damaged about 7 acres of vines, a spokeswoman said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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