More than 12,000 homes are threatened by raging wildfires across Southern California, authorities said, as dramatic new video shows one of the latest fires overtaking the hills just north of the Los Angeles International Airport.
The largest of the blazes, the so-called Thomas fire burning in and around the city of Ventura, has engulfed more than 65,000 acres since Monday night, while forcing more than 50,000 people to evacuate, fire officials there said.
The massive blaze, which authorities said is 0 percent contained, has been intensified by the fanning Santa Ana winds.
“We are still in the middle of an aggressive and active firefight on the ground,” Robert Welsbie, spokesman for the Ventura Fire Department, told Reuters. “If the winds pick up, we will face quite a challenge.”
The flames have moved quickly, spurred by the Santa Ana winds that can blow up to 70 mph. The National Weather Service said the Los Angeles region was under an extreme fire danger warning through Friday and said it expected the winds to continue throughout the week in the “strongest and longest Santa Ana event so far this season.”
Just after 5 a.m. local time on Wednesday, a new brush fire dubbed the Skirball Fire took over 50 acres in Bel-Air. Video of it spreading uphill along the 405 freeway shows the surrounding hills glowing from the flames that have since forced the highway to shut down, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Within roughly four hours, the fire had grown to 150 acres with 0 percent contained, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The nearby J. Paul Getty Museum, which houses European artwork and has closed amid the fires, announced on Twitter that its air filtration systems are working to protect its galleries from the surrounding smoke.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency,
“This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we’ll continue to attack it with all we’ve got,” Brown said Tuesday in a statement. “It’s critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so.”
Fire officials have described the blaze as “out of control” and warned that conditions could worsen throughout the week.
No fatalities have been reported, but one firefighter was injured in the Ventura County fire as nearly 1,000 people fought to control the blaze.
In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, the so-called Creek Fire, which has charred more than 11,300 acres and forced 2,500 homes to evacuate, three firefighters were injured and taken to a hospital for treatment. The Los Angeles Fire Department said they are in stable condition.
The so-called Rye Fire, located in Castaic and just north of the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park, has taken over 7,000 acres. Local fire officials described as 5 percent contained on Wednesday morning.
Another blaze in San Bernardino, called the Little Mountain Fire, has consumed 100 acres. It was last reported as having no containment, according to the San Bernardino Sun.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday tweeted out his support for the first responders and those who are in the wildfires’ path.
Among the homes reportedly under threat by the fires is Rupert Murdoch’s 13-acre Moraga Estate, which he purchased in 2013 for $30 million, according to LA Curbed. The estate’s mansion and private vineyards are located near the 405 freeway, where the Skirball Fire broke out early Wednesday, NBC Los Angeles reported. The vineyard did not immediately return a request for comment.
Comedian Chelsea Handler tweeted Wednesday morning that she has evacuated her home. Musician Lionel Richie has also canceled a Wednesday night performance in Las Vegas due to the fires and his need to help “family evacuate to a safer place,” he announced on Twitter.
At least 150 buildings have been damaged by the Ventura County fire, including an apartment complex and a psychiatric hospital, the Los Angeles Times reported. More than 250,000 homes were also without power, and all schools in the Ventura Unified School District were closed.
“The burn area is pretty much all the mountains between Ventura and Ojai and extending east to Santa Paula,” Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Donoghue told the Times. “It’s a challenge because of the enormity of it, and it’s a challenge because it’s pretty rugged terrain.”
A spate of horrific wildfires tore through Northern California in October and killed more than 40 people. Nearly 9,000 homes and other buildings were destroyed in what became the most destructive and deadly blazes in state history.
This story has been updated with new information on the fires’ development.