Hundreds of thousands of Californians have fled their homes since wildfires broke out Monday and fanned across the region toward Los Angeles.
Multiple aggressive blazes have popped up around Los Angeles. The closest is the 475-acre wildfire called the Skirball fire, about 17 miles outside the city. The wildfire broke out Wednesday morning and quickly torched several multimillion-dollar mansions in Bel-Air and forced Interstate 405 to shut down as Californians watched the surrounding canyon burn.
The blaze is fueled by 60 mph winds, making containment particularly challenging for first responders. An "array of uncertainties" about where the Skirball fire could spread caused classes to be canceled Thursday at the University of California, Los Angeles. The school said students are not in danger, but it is offering face masks to those on campus to shied them from the smoke. UCLA is outside the mandatory evacuation zone.
There are 265 schools closed due to the wildfire threats, reported The Los Angeles Times. The biggest threat to the region is the strong winds pushing the wildfires: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection official Ken Pimlott told the Associated Press that the winds are so strong that any fires that erupt will burn uncontrollably.
Hollywood stars drew additional attention to the importance of evacuating areas near the wildfires. Andy Lassner, an executive producer for The Ellen Show, joked on Twitter, "My biggest fear if I have to evacuate is that after I load all my Emmys in to the car, there won’t be any room left for my family," before wishing Californians a more somber good-night message, saying: "We will get through this. We will take care of each other. That’s what we do. "
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared local emergencies in response to the Skirball Fire and Creek Fire. There are evacuation orders in place for all homes between Mulholland Drive on the north, Sunset Boulevard on the south, Roscomare Road on the east and the 405 Freeway on the west, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The disaster started with the Thomas Fire on Monday evening, and then four other fires started Tuesday afternoon and even more broke out Wednesday. Firefighters were able to contain small blazes, but the larger ones are proving difficult to stop. The Creek Fire has consumed 11,377 acres, and the Thomas Fire has already charred 50,000 acres and eluded containment, the Ventura County Fire Department reported.
The National Weather Service said that Thursday is expected to be the worst day for firefighting, as the forecast is indicating high winds and dry weather. Extreme winds, which are predicted to reach 40 to 60 mph through the county, are helping the fire move quickly and knocking down power lines and trees.
The December fires in California are still small when compared with the October fires that burned more than 128,000 acres in Napa Valley—about eight times the size of Manhattan—and killed 31 people.
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