Several new fires have erupted in Southern California in addition to the massive Thomas fire near Ventura, resulting in the temporary closure of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles as smoke sweeps across the city.
Santa Ana winds turned a 50-acre creek fire into a 45,000-acre firestorm that caused mandatory evacuations and reached the City of Ventura at 4 a.m. on Dec. 5.
In addition, a new fire — dubbed the Creek fire — erupted near Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley, scorching the Los Angeles National Forest and causing the closure of the 210 Freeway for 20 miles, the Los Angeles Times reports. Another small fire, the Rye fire, broke out west of Valencia.
The National Weather Service had issued a Red Flag Warning in the afternoon of Dec. 4 for 50- to 70-mile-per-hour Santa Ana winds, with guts over 80 miles per hour, for Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The Weather Service also predicted relative humidity would drop into the teens and single digits, producing the “strongest and longest duration Santa Ana wind event so far this year.” Those conditions are expected to persist through Friday, Dec. 7.
The Thomas Fire moved quickly, and residents started receiving robo-calls from Ventura County to call their Incident Information Hotline at (805)-465-6650 regarding areas that needed to be evacuated.
But unfortunately, according to residents’ complaints, the voice mail recording said there are currently no emergencies in Ventura County. Sheriff deputies had to go house-to-house in neighborhoods and knock on doors in a scramble to urge residents to evacuate.
About 150 buildings have been destroyed, the sheriff’s office said, and more than 2,700 homes in Ventura and the town of Santa Paula were under mandatory evacuation as fire officials warned that the powerful winds could push flames further into Ventura. As of 7 a.m. on Dec. 5, the fire had entered the town and burned to within a quarter-mile of Ventura City Hall.
A dead animal was found at the site of a rolled over car crash near the evacuation zone on Monday night. Ventura County Emergency Services initially reported that a person had died at the site, but they later clarified that no human body was found.
Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a Tuesday morning news conference that the fire had burned some areas at the rate of an acre per second, and was still out of control. He stated that there are 500 fire fighters deployed to the Thomas Fire.
Ventura County Emergency Services authorities reported that there is a power outage for over 20,000 residents and widespread cellular outages.
Lorenzen also stated, “The prospects for containment are not good,” adding that there was no opportunity to use aircraft to fight the fire overnight When asked the prognosis of the fire, he responded, “Really, Mother Nature is going to decide.”