Tech: Schools and freeways closed, thousands of people forced to flee their homes as multiple wildfires tear through Southern California


Flames consume vehicles as a wildfire rages in Ventura, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.

Three wildfires broke out in the Los Angeles area on Monday and Tuesday — and they’re showing no signs of stopping.

  • A series of wildfires continued raging throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties in Southern California on Tuesday night.
  • The three largest blazes — the Thomas Fire, Creek Fire, and Rye Fire — were burning in areas around Ventura, Sylmar, and Santa Clarita, scorching thousands of acres and showing no signs of stopping by late Tuesday night.
  • Dry, gusty winds, and below-average precipitation are largely to blame. The high winds are expected to continue through Thursday.
  • More than 150,000 people have been forced to leave their homes.
  • Dry weather conditions and gusty winds were expected to continue in the area through Friday.

A series of wildfires contained burning out of control in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in Southern California on Tuesday night. The first flames, dubbed the Thomas Fire, took off nearly 24 hours prior in Ventura County.

As of Tuesday night, the largest blaze, dubbed the Thomas Fire, had burned more than 50,000 acres. At least 12,000 buildings were threatened and 150 buildings were destroyed. The flames have crossed the 101 Freeway near Solimar Beach in Ventura County.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, freeing up state funds to help tackle the wildfires. “This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we'll continue to tackle it with all we've got,” Brown said “It's critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so.”

“The fire growth is just absolutely exponential,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters. “All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people, and protect structures.”

As the Ventura fire raged, another fire near the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar — called the Creek Fire — broke out early Tuesday morning and has continued to grow.

By late Tuesday night, the Creek Fire had charred more than 11,000 acres across Sylmar, Lake View Terrace, and Shadow Hills. Dozens of homes were burned, according to the Los Angeles City Fire Department. There was zero containment of the Creek Fire as of 10:00 p.m. PST.

Authorities said a portion of the 210 Freeway would remain closed until at least Wednesday morning, and mandatory evacuations remained in effect for canyon and foothill areas in the path of the flames on both the north and south sides of the 210 Freeway, the local NPR affiliate KPCC reported. The Los Angeles Unified School District said at least 11 schools would be closed on Wednesday.

“We have this fire, and the devastating fire in Ventura County has definitely tapped the resources throughout the region,” Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief David Richardson told reporters.

Another blaze — the Rye Fire — which broke out near Santa Clarita late Tuesday morning, was 5% percent contained as of 10:00 p.m. PST. More than 500 firefighters were on the scene. A portion of Interstate 5 at State Route 126 had been closed for a time, but the California Highway Patrol reopened all lanes late Tuesday.

The huge fires are caused by weather conditions that have aligned to make the LA-area somewhat of a tinderbox. The entire region is under a “red flag” advisory for weather conditions due to Santa Ana winds that are expected to blow through Friday, the National Weather Service said .

The National Weather Service warned on Monday — hours before the fires broke out — that if a fire occurs, “there will be the potential for very rapid fire spread,” and “extreme fire behavior.”

You can only imagine the impact this weather is having on the flaming front,” Richardson said, per the LA Times. “This wind is what's being dealt with at this point in time. It makes things very … difficult because we're chasing the fire, we're chasing the fire trying to get ahead of it, trying to get in front to provide structure defense.”

California has been ravaged by wildfires in recent months. In October, a series of fires destroyed communities in Northern California, in what is considered the deadliest wildfire in the state's history. Experts say it will take years for the state to recover.