Wildfires Could Bring ‘Another Tragedy’ to California

‘Another Tragedy’

Striking photos show the destruction of growing California wildfires

By Talia Avakian and Kim Bubello

Numerous wildfires continue to burn throughout California, destroying hundreds of structures and causing thousands to evacuate.

Strong Santa Ana winds are pushing the wildfires at a rapid rate as hundreds of firefighters and officials are working to try and alleviate the growing flames.

The first of the fires, the Thomas Fire, started in Southern California’s Ventura County at around 6:30 p.m. on Monday Dec. 4 and has already spread across 45,000 acres since it first broke out, according to the latest estimates from the Ventura County Fire Department.

Some 27,000 people have already evacuated their homes, while at least 150 structures have been destroyed. Due to a combination of high winds traveling at speeds of 30 to 35 mph and dry conditions, the fire continues to spread rapidly, with 1,100 firefighters now on the scene.

Ringo Chiu—AFP/Getty Images

A wildfire burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula on Dec. 5. Ringo Chiu—AFP/Getty Images

David Mcnew—Reuters

Smoke rises as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula on Dec. 4. David Mcnew—Reuters

While firefighters had planned to use both helicopters and fixed winged aircrafts to battle the fire due to visibility issues on the ground, the intensity of the winds forced the department to ground all of the fixed winged aircrafts on Tuesday, Rich Macklin, public information officer with the Ventura County Fire Department, told TIME.

According to Macklin, officials expect the Thomas fire to continue moving towards the Oak View and Ojai areas this evening, which is why they’re putting structure protection groups in place to deal with the forefront that they expect to move into the area.

Marcus Yam—Los Angeles Times/Polaris

John Bain and Brandon Baker take cover from the embers as they try to stop a fire from burning a Ventura home on Dec. 5. Marcus Yam—Los Angeles Times/Polaris

“Our concern is the wind, and if we have fierce winds like last night, this is going to be another tragedy,” Rich Macklin, public information officer with the Ventura County Fire Department, told TIME.

The County of Ventura, City of Santa Paula, and the City of Ventura have all proclaimed the fire a state of local emergency, with an updated smoke advisory from the Ventura County Air Pollution District on Tuesday warning residents to be careful of heavy…

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