The largest of Southern California’s fast-moving fires has engulfed more than 115,000 acres northwest of Los Angeles, while more burned southeast of the city. Authorities say efforts to contain the wildfires have been thwarted by high winds fanning the flames.
At least 439 homes and other buildings have been destroyed by the largest, Thomas Fire, which is only 5 percent contained, officials said Thursday.
Four people, including one firefighter, have been hospitalized with smoke inhalation, authorities said, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency proclamation for Santa Barbara County on Thursday night and asked the White House for a presidential decree for federal assistance.
“We drove through a wall of flames,” Wendy Frank told The Associated Press, describing her ordeal after evacuating her horses from Ojai on Wednesday night. “I didn’t know if we’d make it. I just put the accelerator down.”
Meanwhile, the newly spawned Lilac Fire, which has scorched 4,100 acres in San Diego County, has already claimed 20 homes and threatens 5,000 more. It is moving to the west, rapidly, authorities say, and it could soon burn a corridor all the way to the ocean.
Alison St. John of member station KPBS says the front line of the Lilac Fire is at the northern edge of San Diego’s urban area, and it is burning in the direction of the Camp Pendleton Marine Base.
“Cal Fire is exercising its agreement with the military to use its helicopters for the firefighting operations,” Alison says.
Cal Fire Division Chief Nick Schuler told reporters Thursday evening that “People need to be ready because this fire could make it all the way through Oceanside to the coast if it continues.”
Horse trainer Cliff Sise, at San Luis Rey Training Center, told the trade publication Bloodhorse that flames tore through the facility, burning barns and forcing him to set free panicked animals.
“There are horses running all loose down here,” Sise said. “People have lost horses. Barns have burned down. It just happened so fast that [we] had to do something.”
Although winds were not quite as strong as forecast earlier, they have still been a major factor in both spreading the fire and making it difficult to fight, says Tom Kruschke, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department.
Lance Orozco of member station KCLU in Thousand Oaks reports: “The Santa Ana winds are predicted to ease, but weather forecasters also brought some bad news. Instead of tapering off [Friday], we will see wind, and heightened fire conditions, through Sunday night.”