Predictions For The California Wildfires Are Anyone's Guess
On Friday, President Trump granted a request by California Gov. Jerry Brown and declared a state of emergency in southern Californian counties affected by the latest string of wildfires. The move will allow the state to access federal resources to help fight the blazes, which broke out earlier in the week and have consumed almost 160,000 acres of land so far. But given the sheer size of the fires and, importantly, the unpredictability of wind patterns, it's impossible to say when the fires will be put out for good.
That said, measurable progress has been made fighting the blazes in the last 24 hours. The Creek Fire was only 10 percent contained on Thursday; as of Friday afternoon, it was 40 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Rye Fire went from 15 percent containment on Thursday to 35 percent containment the day after, while the Skirball Fire's containment jumped from 20 percent to 30 percent during the same period, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Unfortunately, firefighters have had a tougher time extinguishing the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, the largest of the six (as of this writing) blazes in southern California. That fire, which has engulfed more acres of land than all of the other fires combined, is still only 10 percent contained as of Friday, up from five percent the day before, and Ventura County officials say it could be weeks until it's extinguished.
“Until the wind stops blowing, there’s really not a lot we can do as far as controlling the perimeter,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said on Thursday.
The Liberty Fire is also at 10 percent containment, according to CBS News. The Lilac Fire, which broke out on Thursday, hasn't been contained at all, — although notably, it also hasn't grown over the last 24 hours, a Cal Fire official told the Tribune.
The combination of high winds, low humidity and treacherous mountain terrain made it difficult for firefighters to effectively extinguish the blazes. But in San Diego, the winds died down slightly early Friday morning, an official told the San Diego Tribune, giving a boost to firefighters attempts to contain the Lilac Fire. That said, the National Weather Service warns that winds in the area will pick up again over the weekend.
Although the southern California fires haven't yet proved as deadly as the blazes that consumed parts of northern California in November, there have been some casualties. On Thursday, the fires have killed at least 54 horses across the state, according to the New York Times; one of their trainers is currently in a medically-induced coma after suffering burns to over 50 percent of her body while trying to rescue the horses from a training facility in San Diego.
In addition, a woman was found dead in an evacuation zone within the Thomas Fire's perimeter, but authorities haven't yet determined if it was the fire that killed her.
Brown declared a state of emergency in the affected counties on Thursday, and sent Trump a letter on Thursday asking him to do the same at the federal level. Trump acquiesced a day later, which will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate and provide resources to California officials trying to contain the fires. Per Trump's order, the federal government will foot the bill for 75 percent of the resources it provides.
"California is grateful for the quick approval of our request and the ongoing efforts of local, state and federal emergency responders to protect communities across Southern California," Brown said in a press release Friday.