New blazes in southern California on Thursday burned homes and forced residents to flee, as strong Santa Ana winds of up to 60mph fueled a ring of wildfires around the Los Angeles area.
In San Bernardino, a city of just over 200,000 people, a new wildfire that broke out in the early hours of Thursday torched several homes and forced evacuations. Less than 20 miles away in Riverside county, evacuations were issued after a fire in the city of Jurupa Valley started shortly after midnight, spreading to 300 acres.
That fires come after a fast-moving blaze on Wednesday swept worrying close the Roland Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, north of LA. The fire at one point threatened 6,500 homes before firefighters were able to control it.
Crews remained at the scene through the night to make sure embers would not rekindle more fires after an army of firefighters helped protect the hilltop Reagan museum, which sat like an island in a soot-black sea. There was no damage, the library spokeswoman Melissa Giller said.
The fire is still burning, but firefighters are believed to have contained the blaze. Cal Fire reports that the blaze consumed nearly 1,500 acres since it started burning yesterday. Mandatory evacuation orders in the area were lifted on Thursday.
Days of destruction
It has been a hellish week for the millions of people affected by the fires in California, where a devastating combination of fierce winds and dry conditions have brought daily fires and fresh evacuations, all amid ongoing power blackouts intended to help prevent new fires from sparking.
No rain in sight for L.A. area for next few weeks; critical fire weather warnings extended
The unusually long Santa Ana wind event is expected to ease Thursday evening. And with it, the fire risk will be reduced as well.
But there is not much good news on the horizon, with forecasters seeing little chance of rain in the next few weeks.
Critical fire weather warnings have been extended through Friday night for the windiest spots of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, continuing red-flag conditions for an additional 24 hours.
The red-flag warnings, which sound the alarm for high winds, dry air and parched vegetation, will persist for inland mountains and valleys in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and the Santa Clarita Valley because of ongoing winds from the northeast and very dry air. Other areas were expected to see red-flag warnings expire as gusts ease Thursday evening to 25 mph to 35 mph.
Wildfires pose new threats as homes burn, releasing toxic fumes
As wildfires in California and elsewhere become the new normal, scientists are racing to learn the airborne health risks of the chemicals in our homes.
Should the fire light up in the right location, Ken Bein, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Davis, can deploy in just under an hour.
“I am in a state right now where my instruments are packed and loaded,” he says. “It’s just a matter of getting the truck and getting out.”
Bein is scouting for northern California fires in regions referred to as wildland-urban interface, where residential areas bleed into undeveloped wilderness. Once he finds a location, his pickup truck will haul a 28-foot flatbed trailer with two smart cars into a spot where air pollution from a wildfire hangs thick. Atop his trailer he has all the equipment he needs to sample plumes of smoke rolling off the fires’ massive blaze. They’ll run automatically, powered by the electric vehicle’s batteries.