California is on fire once again. A fast-moving fire, fueled by the Santa Ana winds, is tearing through the Ventura area. It started Monday night and grew in ferocity early Tuesday, spreading from about 50 acres to an estimated 31,000 acres, reported The Washington Post.
In the Ventura area, at least 150 structures have been destroyed and 27,000 people have been evacuated since the fire began, reported The Los Angeles Times. That included one large apartment complex. At this time, no one has been reported dead.
The fire, which is named the Thomas Fire, began in a canyon near Thomas Aquinas College College in
Santa Paula, about 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, says The Post. By 4 a.m. PST, the fire had advanced into the city limits of Ventura.
According to the Post, a mixture of dry foliage from a continued drought, low humidity, and sustained winds of more than 30 miles per hour throughout the evening led to the fire's explosive growth.
“The fire is still out of control and structures continue to be threatened throughout the fire area,” said Ventura officials. “Due to the intensity of the fire, crews are having trouble making access and there are multiple reports of structures on fire.”
The Ventura County Fire Department issued a warning early Tuesday, saying conditions were expected to worsen. “Incident commander reporting winds are increasing, expect fire behavior to increase over the entire incident,” a department spokesperson tweeted.
The Los Angeles Times described the path of the fire writing, "The fire hopscotched through hillside neighborhoods, burning some homes and sparing others. Some residents sensed the the worst might be over in the early hours of the morning when winds died down. But they picked up with a fury around daybreak, causing more destruction."
Schools in Santa Paula and Ventura, which have both declared states of emergency, are closed Tuesday. More than 7,500 homes are also under mandatory evacuation.
“The prospects for containment are not good,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen. “Really, Mother Nature’s going to decide if we have the ability to put it out.”
The National Weather Service reported that damaging winds and “very critical fire weather conditions” would remain Tuesday and return late Wednesday night into Thursday. They warned that these conditions could lead to “very rapid fire growth” and “extreme fire behavior.” The NWS issued a red flag warning for Ventura and Los Angeles, saying wind gusts between 50 and 70 mph are likely through Thursday.
The fire has also caused outages throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, leaving more than 260,000 people without power, Southern California Edison said in a tweet.
The fire, which has already burned 31,000 acres, is expected to burn at least 50,000 acres in the mountains between Santa Paula and Ventura. By 5:20 a.m. on Tuesday, winds were pushing flames toward Ojai Valley, authorities said.
“The fire is actively burning in the city of Ventura and there are homes and buildings actively burning at this time,” Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Eric Buschow said.
This isn't the first catastrophic fire in California this year. It's already been one of the worst years on record for wildfires in the state. In October, more than 40 people died and more than 10,000 structures were lost when fires swept through Northern California’s wine country.
In this fire, firefighters are attempting to stop the spread, but they're dealing with heavy winds.
“We’re really just trying to catch it around the edges and just pinch it off as quickly as we possibly can,” said Ventura County Firefighter Jason Hodge, adding that crews are dealing with 25 to 50 mph winds. “That’s what’s driving this fire. So it’s a challenge, but everybody’s out there working hard and will be through the night.”
Please pray for the people of Southern California as they deal with this terrible fire. In other news, Muslims have issued a warning to President Trump about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.