Where Is The Skirball Fire? California Is Fighting Off At Least 5 Wildfires Right Now

By Virginia Chamlee
Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Across the country, people are hearing the devastation occurring due to a terrifying series of fires in California. But unless you're familiar with the area, it might not make a lot of sense. Southern California is currently being ravaged by several fires, one of which is known as the Skirball Fire, a 150-acre blaze that originated near (and is apparently named for) the Skirball Cultural Center. Here's everything we know so far about it right now.

The Skirball fire is devastating parts of Los Angeles. The Skirball Cultural Center is about 20 minutes north of the University of California, Los Angeles, and about 30 minutes northwest of Beverly Hills. A visit to the cultural center's website turns up a pop-up warning visitors about the fire: "Due to the brushfire in the vicinity, the Skirball Cultural Center— including all administrative offices, the Museum, Noah's Ark, Audrey's Museum Store, and Zeidler's Café — will be closed today on Wednesday, December 6, until further notice."

The fire is affecting more than Skirball, however. The nearby Getty Museum is also perilously close to the flames (the museum was closed on Wednesday to protect its collection from smoke), and reports suggest that multi-million-dollar homes in the area have already been reduced to dust.

One impacted home, according to reports, is that of Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch, which sits across the 405 Freeway from the Getty Museum, and is located on a vineyard. California media outlets reported Wednesday that Murdoch's vineyard estate was burning, though the full damage of that or the other fires remains unknown.

At least six homes are known to have been impacted by the Skirball fire, but the Los Angeles Fire Department has suggested the damage could be much worse. During a Wednesday morning press conference, Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said the fire was similar in footprint to the Bel Air fire of 1961: "We lost over 500 homes in that fire. The thing that stopped that fire was the wind died down."

In the case of Skirball, however, residents might not be so lucky. Winds are expected to pick up in the region Wednesday evening and into Thursday, which could cause the fire to spread further — and the path of destruction to widen.

Fires first began forming on Monday throughout southern California, but the Skirball fire first burst into view early Wednesday. What makes this particular fire so dangerous is its proximity to a heavily populated area, a number of renowned cultural institutions, and one of Los Angeles' busiest freeways.

Northbound and southbound lanes of the heavily-trafficked 405 Freeway were shut down during the morning commute on Wednesday. Power outages were also reported in West Los Angeles as a result of the Skirball Fire. A number of schools, roads, and businesses were closed and the list of closures continues to be updated. According to Variety, many movie and television studios remained open, though they were advising employees to be cautious about coming to work.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a local State of Emergency due to the Skirball Fire, having already declared a State of Emergency for a different fire, known as the Creek Fire, on Tuesday. That fire, based in northern Los Angeles, has scorched more than 60,000 acres since Tuesday morning.

In total, at least five fires were burning in the greater Los Angeles area. The Los Angeles Fire Department has been updating Twitter followers with evacuation maps, though it notes that — due to the winds and the fact that the fires are spreading rapidly — it was unable to provide precise fire perimeters.

Airplanes and helicopters have been hovering over the area since dawn, attempting to quell the flames. Although, as meteorologists have noted, the intense winds make it difficult to provide the necessary air support. By mid-afternoon on the West coast, the Skirball Fire remained zero percent contained.