SACRAMENTO, California, November 13, 2018 (ENS) – The Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California state history, rages on tonight, having claimed the lives of 46 people since it broke out less than a week ago.
The statewide fire death toll has risen to 48 as another fire further south near Los Angeles caused another two deaths. Officials say they expect the number of fatalities to rise as the fires blaze on, driven by Santa Ana winds.
These strong down slope winds, blow through the mountain passes in southern California at more than 40 miles per hour. Warm and dry, they can worsen brush or forest fires, especially under drought conditions.
Santa Ana winds blow from east to west. They happen when high atmospheric pressure forms over arid Nevada and Utah and lower atmospheric pressure prevails on the California coast.
Extreme fire weather threats continued in southern California today. Winds are forecast to decrease a little on Wednesday, with more significant improvements later this week, the National Weather Service, NWS, said. A high wind warning is in effect for the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area and the mountains and valleys of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
The entire southern quarter of the state is under a Red Flag warning, which means conditions are ideal for wildland fire combustion, and rapid spread, warns the NWS.
The Camp Fire started early on the morning of Thursday, November 8 in Butte County in California’s Central Valley, 90 miles north of the state capital Sacramento.
It burned through 125,000 acres and is now 30 percent contained, but not before the entire town of Paradise, population 27,000, was burned to the ground. Most of the dead were found there.
To date, 6,522 residences and 260 commercial buildings have been destroyed by the Camp Fire, according to CalFire. Many area roads are closed.
Seven shelters are open to serve survivors of the Camp Fire, but three are filled to capacity. Even one of the two small animal shelters is full.
Currently there are 5,139 firefighters racing to contain this wildfire with the help of 622 fire engines, 21 helicopters, 107 bulldozers and 71 water tenders.
Last night firefighters worked aggressively to hold established containment lines. Firefighters provided structure protection and will continue to do so. Firefighters have been scouting and putting in contingency lines ahead of the fire.
“Many risks and hazards along with steep terrain in some areas are impeding firefighting efforts,” says CalFire, the state’s firefighting agency.
Savage winds continue to threaten lives and homes in Southern California’s Woolsey Fire, which has killed two people so far. The strongest Santa Ana winds in the south may bring gusts near hurricane force on Tuesday, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen says.
Traffic on US Highway 101 in both directions between Las Virgenes Road and Valley Circle Boulevard will be stopped for at least 30 minutes at 1:00 am tomorrow morning for emergency powerline work related to the Woolsey Fire.
The Woolsey Fire broke out in Los Angeles County and Ventura County just south of Simi Valley in the middle of the afternoon of November 8.
To date the Woolsey Fire has consumed 96,314 acres and destroyed 57,000 structures. It is considered 35 percent contained; full containment is expected on November 18.
Eighty-three percent of all National Park Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has
been burned by the Woolsey Fire. All National Park Service land in that Recreation Area are closed to public entry for safety.
Point Magu in Ventura County is under evacuation and in Los Angeles County so are the entire cities of Malibu, Hidden Hills and all of Topanga Canyon.
Entertainers Miley Cyrus, Neil Young, Robin Thicke and Gerard Butler are among those whose Malibu homes were destroyed by the Woolsey fire.
Though Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth lost their home in the fire, they are donating $500,000 to The Malibu Foundation through Cyrus’ charity, The Happy Hippie Foundation. “These funds will be used for those in financial need, emergency relief assistance, community rebuilding, wildfire prevention and climate change resilience,” said a spokesperson for Cyrus.
Cyrus tweeted on Sunday, “Completely devestated by the fires affecting my community. I am one of the lucky ones. My animals and LOVE OF MY LIFE made it out safely & that’s all that matters right now. My house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong.”
President Donald Trump blamed the victims, calling the California fires the fault of “poor forest management.”
After losing his home on his 73rd birthday, November 12, Neil Young disagrees. “California is vulnerable – not because of poor forest management as DT (our so-called president) would have us think,” Young wrote on his website. “We are vulnerable because of Climate Change; the extreme weather events and our extended drought is part of it.”
“Our temperatures are higher than ever here in our hottest summer on record,” Young wrote. “California is a paradise for us all. We are sad not to be able to defend it against Mother Nature’s wrath.”