AFP / Kyle Grillot
Firefighters battle the “Thomas Fire” in Ventura County
Firefighters on Thursday battled raging wildfires across southern California that have forced their way to homes, including Los Angeles residents, America’s second-largest city. Winds with hurricane-force gusts of up to 80 miles per hour (130 miles per hour) were fueling the blazes, creating apocalyptic scenes of hillsides in smoke billowing and towering feathers of flame.
Despite the intensity of the fires, only one fatality has been reported so far. Tim Lohman of the Ventura County Sheriff ‘s Office said it was unidentified. A prior report of a fire-related death on Monday proved to be unfounded. More than 4,000 firefighters and dozens of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters in Los Angeles County and Ventura County, fire officials said.

AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN
Firefighters and officials watch in Conchita, California
The Pentagon announced that the National Guard is deploying 65 troops to assist in the fire-fighting efforts, which are being hampered by the Santa Ana winds. California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said these were dry, windy conditions were expected to continue into the weekend and warned residents to be ready to leave at a time’s notice.
“Extremely dry conditions and Santa Ana Winds will continue to elevate fire danger,” Cal Fire said in a tweet. “Prepare now to be sure that you are ready to go!” Cal Fire chief Ken Pimlott said the strong winds were compounding the difficulty of fighting the fires.

AFP / Kyle Grillot
Route 101 closed after the “Thomas Fire” jumped the road in Ventura, California
“There will be no ability to fight these types of winds,” Pimlott said. Multi-million dollar mansions were destroyed in Los Angeles’ Bel Air neighborhood, where many celebrities own homes and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has a $ 30 million estate, the Moraga Bel Air Winery.
Besides Bel Air, tributary to Los Angeles neighborhoods between Mulholland Drive and the Sunset Boulevard to the south are part of the evacuation zone. The University of California, Los Angeles canceled classes – two days before the beginning of exams – as firefighters battled the “Skirball” fire at the campus sprawling.

AFP / Kyle Grillot
Police and fire crews watch the Thomas Fire burns in Ojai, California
Further to the north, in Ventura County, an even bigger blaze, the “Thomas” fire, was raging and threatening several coastal and inland towns. That fire has consumed 96,000 acres (38,850 hectares) and forced 50,000 people to flee their homes, Cal Fire said.
– Celebrities – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said over 230,000 people have been forced to evacuate in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

AFP / MARK RALSTON
A family wears face masks as they walk through smoke from the “Thomas fire” in Ventura, California
Major north-south highways, including the famed Route 101, were closed on the road and menaced beachfront homes. The “Skirball” fire ignited Wednesday morning and began to sweep through tributary Bel Air, home to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, pop superstar Beyonce and other celebrities.
Police knocked on doors and used loudspeakers to make sure everyone had left their homes. The singer Lionel Richie canceled the chelsea Handler and designer Adrienne Maloof were among those tweeting that they had to evacuate. Among those evacuated was model Chrissy Teigen, wife of John Legend singer.

AFP / MARK RALSTON
Members of the Reinhardt family in Ventura County, California
“Never thought I’d get to actually play what I thought was a hypothetical game of what would you have gotten a fire,” Teigen wrote on Twitter. “Thinking of everyone else affected and continuing my lifelong intense love of firefighters,” she added.
Forecasters fearing more spreads, threatening more homes and the acclaimed Getty Center museum. The Getty – home to masterpieces by Monet and Rembrandt – was closed. Museum authorities tweeted that “air filtration systems are protecting the galleries from smoke.” This has been California’s deadliest year ever for wildfires. More than 40 people died in October when fires ravaged the state’s wine-producing counties.

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