No respite in sight from fast-moving Southern California wildfires

VENTURA, Calif. (Reuters) - Exhausted fire crews made little headway on Friday in containing the most troublesome of six major wildfires burning in South California as dry winds fanned flames that ravaged avocado farms, racehorse stables and a retirement community.

Forecasters predicted weather would continue to challenge the 8,700 firefighters who have been battling fast-moving blazes for five days from the San Diego area up the Pacific Coast to Santa Barbara County. At least 500 structures have been destroyed, six people hurt and four firefighters injured.

At the peak, about 212,000 people were forced to flee their homes, but evacuation orders were lifted in some areas.

24 PHOTOS
Wildfire in Ventura County, California
See Gallery
Wildfire in Ventura County, California
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: Smoke blows out of the burning palm trees as brush fire threaten homes on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: Firefighters work to control the western side of Grant Park as brushfire engulf most of the vegetation on the hill, on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A man waters his home as firefighters battle a wildfire as it burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A firefighter battles a wildfire as it burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman evacuates her home as a wildfire burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter looks at a house burnt to the ground during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter battles a wildfire as it burns along a hillside near homes in Santa Paula, California, on December 5, 2017. Fast-moving, wind-fueled brush fire exploded to about 10,000 acres in Ventura County Monday night, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
Embers blow from burned trees as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A home burns as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises into the night sky as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 4, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A burned truck smolders on a country road at night as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Downtown is darkened by a power outage with smoke rising in the distance as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres in Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Embers blow from burned trees as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Property burns at night as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
The burned remains of crashed cars are seen at night on a country road as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A structure burns as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
The burned remains of crashed cars are seen at night on a country road as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Property burns at night as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A home burns as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
Embers blow from a tree shortly before it fell down near burned cars as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A home burns as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew
A fire crew passes a burning home during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A firefighter inspects a burning home during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Embers blow from burned trees as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday issued a federal emergency declaration for California, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts.

Two of the most dangerous fires, in Ventura County and San Diego County, were zero to 10 percent contained, the CAL FIRE agency reported. Billions of dollars in property is at risk.

"Critical fire weather is expected to continue for the next few days. Firefighters continue their aggressive firefighting!" the Ventura County Fire Department said on Twitter.

A joint weather forecast by firefighting agencies said temperatures would remain "well above normal for the foreseeable future." Winds were expected to continue, peaking in strength on Sunday then becoming much lighter on Monday. "Ongoing fires may see significant growth on Sunday," it said.

See haunting footage from the blaze engulfing the greater Los Angeles area:

North of San Diego, the Lilac Fire swelled from 10 acres to 4,100 acres (1,659 hectares) in a few hours on Thursday, prompting Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for San Diego County. The fire destroyed 65 structures.

Fallbrook, known for its avocado orchards, burned, and homes were destroyed in its Rancho Monserate Country Club retirement community. Blazes approached the Camp Pendleton marine base.

A 500-stall stable for thoroughbred race horses at San Luis Rey Downs training site burned late on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

An estimated 25 to 30 horses died, in addition to 29 horses killed in Los Angeles earlier in the week. A trainer suffered second- and third-degree burns over half her body trying to rescue horses, the newspaper said. She was airlifted to a San Diego hospital and placed in a medically induced coma.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, a racetrack in a beachside community north of San Diego, said it was providing refuge for more than 900 animals, mostly horses as well as some goats and pigs. A horse hospital was being opened on Friday.

14 PHOTOS
Aerial images of Ventura County, California wildfire
See Gallery
Aerial images of Ventura County, California wildfire
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: View of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: Dozens of homes destroyed in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: Dozens of homes destroyed in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: Homes burned to the ground in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is fully involved in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is fully involved in fire and others destroyed in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is fully involved in fire and others destroyed in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: Dozens of homes destroyed in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: View of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: Dozens of homes destroyed in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SYLMAR, CA, DECEMBER 5: Flames encroach on structures in the hills above Sylmar fire from helicopter in Los Angeles County, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2017. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
MALIBU, CA - FEBRUARY 25: LA County Fire helicopters make water drops to halt forward progress of the10 acre brush fire called the Mulholland Fire in the western Malibu hills near the Ventura County line Thursday morning as hand crews work to cut a control line around the blaze. A fire crew inmate suffered major injuries from fallng rock while battling the fire and was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
MALIBU, CA - FEBRUARY 25: LA County Fire helicopters make water drops to halt forward progress of the10 acre brush fire called the Mulholland Fire in the western Malibu hills near the Ventura County line Thursday morning as hand crews work to cut a control line around the blaze. A fire crew inmate suffered major injuries from fallng rock while battling the fire and was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - DECEMBER 5: Dozens of homes destroyed in view of the Thomas fire from helicopter in on Dec. 5, 2017 in Ventura County, California. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

On Twitter, animal lovers sought to reunite lost dogs with their owners and posted pleas for residents in the Los Angeles area to put out water for wild animals fleeing the fires.

The wildfires forced producers of commercials, television shows and even student films to pause or seek alternate shooting locations. The Los Angeles Police Department on Wednesday suspended permitted filming in zones near the fires as well as other areas deemed to be at severe risk of burning. Applications for filming in the Angeles National Forest were also halted this week.

SMOKE VISIBLE FROM SPACE

The largest of the blazes, known as the Thomas Fire, was in Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, and has charred 132,000 acres and destroyed 439 structures, officials said. More than 2,600 firefighters from as far away as Portland, Oregon, and Nevada, made progress against the blaze with 10 percent contained, up from 5 percent on Thursday.

A huge plume of smoke flared from the fire in the Ventura County mountains on Friday and was visible on satellite images, the National Weather Service said. Astronauts have captured images showing the wildfires' smoke visible from space, and the National Weather Service said visibility was being affected in the San Francisco area.

16 PHOTOS
Faces of those impacted and battling the Ventura County, California wildfire
See Gallery
Faces of those impacted and battling the Ventura County, California wildfire
SHADOW HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 05:Judy Hofmann-Sanders hugs a firefighter on McBroom Street in Shadow Hills, where the Creek fire destroyed several homes. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Ventura County Firefighter Aaron Cohen catches his breath after fighting to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. 'We chased the fire from Santa Paula all the way into Ventura through the night,' Cohen said. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SYLMAR, CA - DECEMBER 5:A firefighter gets into position to battle the Creek Fire as a house is engulfed in flames near the intersection of Johanna Avenue and McBroom Street in Shadow Hills on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. The fire started at about 3:42 a.m. in the area of Gold Creek and Little Tujunga roads and has burned more than 11,000 acres. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHADOW HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 05:Judy Hofmann-Sanders talks on the phone as her home is consumed by the Creek fire along McBroom Street in Shadow Hills. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Chino Valley Fire Engineer Chris Calvert works the engine as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Amanda Leon and husband Johnny Leon watch as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Local residents react as numerous homes burn on a hillside during a wind driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Local residents watch a home burn on a hillside during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A Ventura police officer squints his eyes in the smoke after using his fire extinguisher to put out a spot fire as strong winds carry a wildfire into Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Ventura policemen leave a neighborhood after checking a home as strong winds carry a wildfire into Ventura, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters battle flames from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula, California, December 4, 2017. Photo taken December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Tammy Hanna breaks into tears as she is hugged by husband Antoine as they are relieved their home was saved by Firefighters along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. 'We chased the fire from Santa Paula all the way into Ventura through the night,' Cohen said. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Wearing his Christmas garb Justin Ekback watches as Firefighters fight to save multi-million dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive near Foothill Road and North Victoria Avenue Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday, burning over 45,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SHADOW HILLS, CA DECEMBER 05, 2017 -- Judy Hofmann-Sanders can only watch as her home is consumed by the Creek fire along McBroom Street in Shadow Hills. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Local residents pass by a burning house during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California, on December 5, 2017. Firefighters battled a wind-whipped brush fire in southern California that has left at least one person dead, destroyed more than 150 homes and businesses and forced tens of thousands to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents Aaron Cohen hugs Tammy Hanna during the Thomas wildfire in Ventura, California on December 5, 2017. Firefighters battled a wind-whipped brush fire in southern California that has left at least one person dead, destroyed more than 150 homes and businesses and forced tens of thousands to flee. / AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The Santa Ana winds, which blow hot and dry across Southern California to the Pacific, eased up on Friday, ranging from 5 miles per hour (8 km per hour) to 35 mph. That turned out to be a mixed blessing for firefighters because the lingering smoke limited the use of water-dropping aircraft.

"No wind is good because it decreases the fire activity but if it’s too smoky to drive and see where you’re going, it’s too smoky to fly," Clark said.

Some 86,000 homes were at risk in the three large fires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, according to CoreLogic Inc <CLGX.O> a California-based risk analysis firm, with reconstruction possibly totaling $27.7 billion.

California is still recovering from wildfires in the northern part of the state that resulted in insured losses of more than $9 billion in October. Those fires, which were concentrated in California's wine country, killed 43 people.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; writing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Shumaker)

 

 

Read Full Story