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Expected High Winds ‘A Recipe for Explosive Fire Growth’ in Southern California

May the Santa Ana’s die down soon. The freeway has since reopened, but some ramps remained closed. California Gov. Firefighters continued working Wednesday night to keep the fire from jumping west of 405 and battling some flareups, said Peter Sanders, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. (Credit: KYLE GRILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Winds are expected to pick up — with gusts up to 80 mph — and likely fuel wildfires that have engulfed numerous hillsides in flames, quickly incinerated neighborhoods and prompted the evacuation of more than 110,000 people. Latest developments
•More evacuations: Several cities in the Ojai Valley are under mandatory evacuation. •School closures: More than 260 Los Angeles public and charter schools will be closed Thursday and Friday. Thousands of firefighters are working around the clock to battle fast-moving wildfires in Southern California as fears grow that winds might make matters worse on Thursday. Satellite images by the National Weather Service showed the city of Ojai surrounded by fires. Freeway shutdown
The 475-acre Skirball Fire near the tony Bel-Air area of Los Angeles startled morning commuters on Interstate 405. “I could feel the heat on my windows,” said Los Angeleno Joy Newcomb, who also drove by the fire. Stretching 140 square miles
The Thomas Fire in Ventura County, which sits just north and west of Los Angeles, grew significantly Wednesday to about 140 square miles. 34.274646
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LAFD Chief: ‘Our People Are Getting Tired’ #Californiawildfire.” In another post he thanked the thousands of people fighting the fires. “It was dark until I saw a gigantic ball of orange,” I-405 motorist Tiffany Lynette Anderson wrote on Instagram, where she posted a picture of fire raging beside the highway before it was closed. Jerry Brown declared an emergency for the county, freeing state resources such as the National Guard to support response efforts. The smoke from the fires could be seen from the International Space Station. Officials there said they couldn’t give a precise number of homes destroyed, because flames in burned neighborhoods still were too intense for examination. Health officials warned people in the heavily populated San Fernando Valley and other parts of the northern Los Angeles area to limit their time outdoors. Smoke collected even in areas that weren’t burning. “We stand a fairly good chance of a very challenging night and day (Thursday),” said Tim Chavez, a fire behavior analyst for CalFire, at a news conference on the 90,000-acre Thomas Fire in Ventura County. Smoky hazards
Los Angeles authorities ordered parts of the Bel-Air district near the fire to leave, but those are just a fraction of the evacuations that have been ordered in Southern California since Monday night. The busy freeway was shut down over a 9-mile stretch for hours as the fire got closer. “There’s a lot of potential for some large fire growth (for this fire).”
Related: See photos of the fierce wildfires in Southern California
Overworked firefighters caught a break Wednesday when the winds eased but on Thursday, officials say they will see a “recipe for explosive fire growth” of high winds, a super dry humidity of less than 10% and a fire danger of 296 — the highest it has ever been. A video posted to Instagram shows a Los Angeles County Fire helicopter maneuvering around heavy smoke to make a water drop on the Skirball Fire. •Out-of-state help: About 300 engines are coming from fire departments in other states, Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said. Astronaut Randy Bresnik wrote in one tweet: “I was asked this evening if we can see the SoCal fires from space. Airborne embers were irritating firefighters’ eyes, said Rich Macklin, a Ventura County fire spokesman. But they had estimated about 150 buildings as of Wednesday night. Yes Faith, unfortunately we can. •Areas of concern: Firefighters said they are keeping the Skirball Fire at bay but worry it will jump west of Interstate 405. A car drives past as the Thomas Fire burns a hillside south of Casitas Springs, California, December 6, 2017. The number will increase once the focus shifts from firefighting and rescue to more damage assessment, fire officials said.