Southern California was hit with a string of devastating wildfires on Tuesday, prompting mass evacuations and road closures in Los Angeles County and beyond. As of Thursday morning, the fires had engulfed about 160,000 acres of land, destroyed over 300 buildings and prompted thousands of firefighters from in and out of state to help put out the blaze, according to the New York Times. Unfortunately, the California fires aren't anywhere close to being contained, and it will most likely be a few weeks at least until the biggest blaze is extinguished.
"Mother Nature is going to decide when we have the ability to put it out," Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzens said at a press conference Tuesday night. "It is pushing hard."
The combination of high winds, steep terrain that's difficult to traverse and southern California's characteristically low humidity has made it very difficult for firefighters to fight the fires effectively, authorities said. They've made some progress containing the fires, but not very much: The largest of them, the Thomas Fire, was only 5 percent contained as of Thursday morning, according to ABC News. The Creek Fire was 10 percent contained, the Los Angeles Times reports, while the Rye Fire in Santa Clarita was at 15 percent containment, according to ABC 7.
There was a small bit of good news on Thursday morning, when Los Angeles County authorities announced that the Skirball Fire had been contained at 20 percent, up from just 5 percent the day before. Although the Skirball Fire is the smallest of the four major fires, it's of particular concern given its proximity to densely-populated Los Angeles County. It was the Skirball Fire that prompted the closure of the 405 freeway and produced downright apocalyptic images of the nearby hills fully engulfed in flames.
"The good news since yesterday [is] we were promised erratic weather, but luckily, the erratic weather was erratic in a good way," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday, according to NBC News. "The expected high winds from last night were calmer that we had some projections of."
But the wind in Ventura County, where the Thomas Fire is burning, remained strong on Thursday, dashing any hopes of the blaze being extinguished any time soon.
“Until the wind stops blowing, there’s really not a lot we can do as far as controlling the perimeter, so our opportunities are hopefully going to come in tomorrow as the wind lets up," Lorenzen said on Thursday, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. "This is a fight we’re going to be fighting probably for a couple of weeks.”
CNN reports that around 2,500 firefighters have been dispatched to extinguish the Thomas Fire, while an additional 2,5000 are combating the other four blazes. The state National Guard has also stepped in, which is notable in part because 50 National Guardsman were themselves evacuated and three lost their homes on account of the fires.
The fires could end up being some of the worst in California's history. The National Weather Service has placed the entire region from Ventura County to the southern border on "Purple Alert" for fires on Thursday; this indicates that "upon ignition, fires will have extreme growth, will burn very intensely, and will be uncontrollable."
“The forecast for tomorrow is purple,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said, according to Time. “We’ve never used purple before.”
A woman's body was discovered Thursday in an unincorporated area in the Thomas Fire's perimeter, and authorities are currently attempting to determine whether or not she was killed by the fire. In addition, almost 30 horses were killed in the Creek Fire. Other than that, no injuries or deaths have yet been reported as a result of the wildfires.
“These are days that break your heart,” Garcetti said Wednesday. “These are also days that show the resilience of our city.”