Trump approves California disaster declaration as firefighters battle flames in Ventura and San Diego counties - Global Times

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Friday, 8 December 2017

Trump approves California disaster declaration as firefighters battle flames in Ventura and San Diego counties

Wildfires fanned by sustained Santa Ana winds continued to wreak havoc across Southern California on Friday as blazes in San Diego and Ventura counties destroyed more than 500 structures, sent 212,000 people fleeing and left thousands without power.


In northern San Diego County, the Lilac fire continued to burn Friday morning, holding at 4,100 acres from the night before with no containment. More than 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, which roared through Bonsall and into Oceanside late Thursday.
At least three people were injured and 25 horses were killed at a thoroughbred training center. At least 85 structures have been destroyed, including a number of mobile homes, authorities said Monday.
President Trump approved a California disaster declaration Friday morning. He ordered federal aid to the area and put the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of disaster relief efforts.

“Be prepared because as we remember the Cedar Fire in 2003, a fire that starts in the back country … can go anywhere at any time, particularly when those winds shift,” San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said Friday morning. “We’re not out of the woods yet. We need to stay vigilant and be prepared.”

The Lilac fire is one of a half-dozen major fires burning across Ventura, San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside counties, and comes as the National Weather Service extended a red-flag fire warning to Sunday.

Of all those fires in Southern California, the Thomas fire in Ventura County is still the largest, spanning 132,000 acres from Santa Paula to the coast. It was 10% contained as of Friday morning, authorities said.

Smoke from the Thomas Fire reduced visibility at times from a mile to less than half a mile in Ventura on Friday morning.

The winds Thursday night were “down into the teens and 20s as opposed to previous nights we had winds in the 30- and 40-mile-per-hour” range, said Ventura County Fire Capt. Scott Dettorre.

Throughout Ventura County more than 400 structures have been destroyed, most in the city of Ventura, authorities said.

Officials still have not identified or reported a cause of death for a woman who was found in the Thomas fire burn area, at the scene of a car accident.
At a morning briefing Friday, crews battling the Thomas fire were reminded to be sensitive of those residents who were returning to destroyed homes.

“Treat them like you would treat your community,” they were told.

Firefighters were also warned of the dangers of changing wind patterns and to be extra cautious of their surroundings. Erratic wind patterns Friday could change the direction of flames, placing fire crews at higher risk of getting caught without an escape route.

“The Santa Ana winds are predicted to die down by the afternoon and with that the breeze from the ocean will pick up,” said Ventura County Fire Department PIO Scott Quirarte. “Firefighters will need to pay attention to the winds and the type of terrain they’re on.”

The Thomas fire is mostly burning at either end of the perimeter, Dettorre said. Northeast Santa Ana winds continued pushing flames west toward the La Conchita area, while topography is offering fuel to the fire on the eastern end, Dettorre said. The fire has already encroached into the Los Padres National Forest above Ojai, and could do the same on the eastern end near Fillmore, he said.

In downtown Ojai, which is under a voluntary evacuation, most restaurants, boutiques and wine tasting rooms have been closed for three days.
The Skirball fire in the Los Angels neighborhood of Bel Air was 30% contained and at 475 acres as of Thursday night, said, Los Angeles City Fire Capt. Cody Weireter. Six homes have been destroyed and a dozen damaged in the fire, authorities said. Some residents have been allowed back into their homes.

On Thursday night and Friday morning, “they had flareups here and there … but they were able to quickly extinguish them and knock those down,” Weireter said.

As of Friday morning, the Liberty fire in Murrieta was at 300 acres and 60% contained. One structure and seven outbuildings were destroyed, authorities said.

On Friday morning, Southern California Edison said that more than 11,000 of its customers were without power due to fires throughout the region.

The dry, gusty winds that have fanned a half dozen wildfires in Southern California will continue through next week, the National Weather Service said.

A red flag warning – a combination of extremely low relative humidity and wind speeds that indicate a serious threat if a fire were to occur – are in effect through 8 p.m. Sunday, said meteorologist Tom Fisher.

“Monday and Tuesday, things should be kind of dull fortunately,” Fisher said. The wind speeds expected Friday are a far cry from the hurricane-force gusts that drove a wall of fire into Ventura Monday evening and downslope toward hundreds of thousands of residents in Los Angeles County the following morning.

According to forecasters, 25 to 35 mph winds in Ventura County around the Thomas fire will continue to push the fire south and southwest with the occasional 45 mph gusts.

Winds are forecasted to be even calmer inland, where winds will move at 15 to 25 mph with 35 mph gusts in the San Gabriel Valley, Fisher said.

Farther south in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties, winds have slowed tremendously from Monday and Tuesday, where gusts clocked in at more than 80 mph, down to between 30 and 50 mph for cities between Riverside and Palomar Friday.

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