It was a dreadful day in Southern California. It was a better day in Southern California.
While dozens of people confronted the loss of homes, tens of thousands remained under evacuation orders, and more than 5,000 tired firefighters continued to battle four wildfires in Southern California on Thursday, many residents breathed sighs of relief that the fires in Los Angeles and Ventura were increasingly contained and no new ones had taken hold.
Residents went to bed Wednesday fearful that Thursday would be the worst of the four days of conflagration, with Santa Ana winds forecast to gust up to 90 mph in some places overnight. But it turned into a day for the region to take a deep — and more smoke-free — breath. Forecasts for wind gusts strong enough to spread existing fires and carrying embers long distances remained in force for Friday. But the velocities were expected to be lower, up to 60 mpg over ridges and through canyons, according to AccuWeather.
Authorities reported progress at three of the the four fires that had been at only 5 percent containment Wednesday: Containment rose to 20 percent for the Skirball fire, in the Bel-Air area in the Sepulveda Pass; to 15 percent for the Rye fire, in Santa Clarita, and 10 percent for the Creek fire, north of Sylmar. The Liberty fire in the Murrieta area of Riverside County erupted Thursday, torching 300 acres and claiming at least one home.
The largest, the Thomas fire, burning in Ventura County, remained 5 percent contained. It threatened Ojai, forced evacuation of the seaside community of Faria Beach, and prompted the intermittent closure of Highway 101 between Ventura and Santa Barbara on Thursday. As of mid-afternoon it had burned more than 96,000 acres and destroyed 73 homes, among other structures.
Fire officials reported significant progress in heading off the Skirball fire, which had burned 475 acres, destroyed four homes and damaged 12 structures. The Getty Center, across the 405 from the Skirball fire, announced it will re-open Friday.