Perhaps the worst case scenario for a wildfire, which married bone dry conditions in Southern California with the relentless fury of Santa Ana winds, and by the break of dawn Tuesday morning, the raging inferno — deemed wholly uncontained — had consumed thousands of structures in outlying areas and inside the northern edges of the City of Ventura.
Now, the fire has turned deadly — one person has reportedly been killed on Tuesday.
One Twitter user shared a breathtaking still photo of Ventura Harbor with flames dominating the background:
— Chris Mattia (@csmattia) December 5, 2017
“The fire is actively burning in the city of Ventura and there are homes and buildings actively burning at this time,” Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Eric Buschow stated on a local emergency resource website. “Due to the intensity of the fire, crews are having trouble making access and there are multiple reports of structures on fire. Fire crews from many different agencies are actively working on the incident. There are 1100 firefighters on scene with additional fire resources enroute.”
More than 100,000 people live in the Pacific Coast city — a veritable paradise, to many — until the out-of-control Thomas Fire. Thus far, the inferno has charred 45,500 acres.
NBC 4 Los Angeles captured the fire’s intensity on video posted to Twitter,
— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) December 5, 2017
No less than 27,000 people were under mandatory evacuation as of Tuesday morning, with the near certain issuance of further voluntary and mandatory orders, as the blast furnace of Santa Ana winds continue. A red-flag wind advisory — with ridgeline winds at 35 mph to 40 mph, and accompanying gusts of up to 70 mph — has not provided firefighters an opportunity for the slightest foothold in quashing the flames.
Ventura County Fire Department division chief, Chad Cook, reported winds were predicted to abate some, later in the day; but that break — if any — won’t be much. National Weather Service predicts the winds of this intensity to affect the area, and unhindered fire, for another three days.
“Generally, it’s awful fire weather today, tomorrow and Thursday,” Forecaster Ryan Kittell observed. “The winds we’re seeing right now are … plenty strong to drive a fire.”
According to the Los Angeles Times,
“There was no containment on the fire as of 7 a.m., with 1,000 firefighters battling the blaze and more on the way, said Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Tim Lochman. One helicopter was dropping water and authorities were hoping winds would die down so they could deploy fixed-wing aircraft soon, he said.”
“The fast-moving fire forced sheriff’s deputies to knock on doors to warn residents to evacuate in the dark. About 150 buildings, including homes and [82-bed mental health facility, Vista del Mar Hospital], had been destroyed by Tuesday morning.”
As the conflagration continues mushrooming in size, officials report the formidable fire has been devouring an acre — slightly less than an area the size of an American football field — each second.
“The fire started near California State Highway 150 on Monday evening and spread into Santa Paula,” the Times continues. “From there, the fire followed Foothill Road from Santa Paula to Ventura, taking out homes and winding along canyons in the process […]
“The fire hopscotched through hillside neighborhoods, burning some homes and sparing others. Some residents hoped the the worst might be over in the early hours of the morning when the wind died down. But it picked up with a fury around daybreak, causing more destruction.”
Firefighters, law enforcement, and hundreds of emergency personnel have descended on the area to — at minimum — ensure the public’s safety, as this swiftly moving wildfire spawns smaller fires from embers on the wind.
Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency midday Tuesday, ostensively freeing resources and the funds to procure them, in an attempt to contain the explosive, zero-percent contained Thomas Fire.
Stunned residents watched the massive conflagration, a safe distance from their now-burning homes — not having expected the smaller blaze from Monday to have ballooned exponentially and ravenously in just a few short hours.
Whether or not firefighters manage to repel flames from the heart of Ventura is an open question at press time — but authorities advised area residents to remain vigilant, obey evacuation orders and suggestions, and to leave if in doubt over the fickle flames.
Indeed, anyone in the area should pay close attention to route closures, shut downs — as well as to the emergence of additional fires.
Interstate 5 in Santa Clarita has now been closed after the Rye Fire — yet another to abruptly explode in size to 500 acres and counting — threatened the area.
Featured image: Photo/Ventura County Fire Department.
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