Authorities feared the four major fires — ranging from Los Angeles up the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara County – would be whipped up by the region’s notorious westward Santa Ana winds that could reach hurricane strength.
“The prediction is even though this is a period of calm winds that we will continue to get gusts through Saturday that will be erratic and unpredictable, as high as 50-70 miles and hour [about 80-110 KPH]. As the chief said yesterday, these conditions combined with the heat that is now coming to the area, the dryness, the amount of vegetation that someone of the areas that have not burned, makes this still a very threatening environment. So even as you see inroads being made we are going to have an abundance of caution. We want to make sure that you are safe and that we don’t order people back to their homes or allow people back to their homes any earlier than possible,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The national weather service said Santa Ana winds were blowing on Thursday afternoon, and the California state fire agency said gusty winds and extremely low humidity would continue through Sunday.
Wildfires roared through canyons, hillsides and residential areas in densely populated southern California for a fourth day on Thursday.
Thousands of people have evacuated ahead of the fires, which have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced hundreds of Los Angeles-area schools to close.
“Our biggest nightmare has been the palm tree farm back there. And you know, they are so you know prone to lighting on fire. They are just torches basically. So we’ve been watching that very closely and then this morning, of course, the wind and the sparks got together and burned them all up,” Mandy Dugan, a local resident.
Filipinos were among the evacuees from affected counties. Three of them are staying at Sylmar evacuation center in San Fernando Valley.
Ricardo Victoria said that the authorities ordered forced evacuation as the wildfire came very close to their homes.
Ricardo said other Filipinos were brought to different centers for safety. Representatives of Filipino organizations and the Philippine Consulate are constantly communicating with Los Angeles authorities to check and verify on the situation of Filipinos affected by the wildfire,” said the evacuee.
The Los Angeles local government has set up 16 evacuation centers to where affected residents can stay and four more centers for pets and other animals.
The red zones remain under mandatory evacuations and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti emphasized very strongly and clearly to the residents to be ready to go and do not hesitate to leave when necessary. — Reuters