Early Saturday morning, state officials confirmed the first fire-related death in Southern California. According to CNN, the body of a woman was found at a crash site along one of the many evacuation routes established by emergency workers out of Southern California, where a series of wildfires continues to devastate thousands of acres. Authorities revealed Virginia Pesola, a 70-year-old resident of Santa Paula, had apparently suffered “blunt force injuries with terminal smoke inhalation and thermal injuries” following a crash on Wednesday located near the Thomas Fire.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports officials monitoring the fires’ progress were finally able to properly assess the ongoing damage late Friday when the “powerful Santa Ana winds that fueled a five-day fire siege” finally began to abet. More than 500 structures have been confirmed destroyed by the wildfires, and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes and neighborhoods. Despite the brief pause, experts fear the worst is far from over:
“When a tornado hits the Midwest, there’s no stopping it. When a hurricane hits the East Coast, there’s no stopping it. When the Santa Ana winds come in, there’s no stopping them,” said Kendal Bortisser, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in San Diego.
CNN notes Gov. Jerry Brown will be surveying the damage in Ventura County later on Saturday. Of the at least six major wildfires stretched across the region, its fire — the Thomas Fire, from which Pesola was trying to escape on Wednesday — is considered the largest and the most destructive so far.