The remainder of the week will bring enormous challenges to Southern California firefighters as they struggle to contain multiple blazes. This includes the already infamous Skirball fire, which boasts a path that could destroy some Los Angeles landmarks, and on a greater scale (acreage-wise), the Thomas fire that has already engulfed 90,000 acres in Ventura County. At least five major fires are now consuming brush throughout much of the state, and the Santa Ana winds will show no mercy on Thursday.
In fact, California authorities are bracing for what they’re calling “uncharted territory.” Winds are expected to further fuel the infernos to such levels that authorities flipped the switch on the never-before-used “purple” alert, signaling an “extreme” danger. From Los Angeles to San Diego, authorities sent out quite a late-night emergency alert to all cell phones.
CNN notes word from California officials who point toward humidity lower than 10% as one factor that will contribute to a “recipe for explosive fire growth.” As for the other ingredient, CBS News spoke with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlot, who says that what are essentially hurricane-force winds will easily erase any progress made by firefighters:
“The forecast for tomorrow [Thursday] is purple. We’ve never used purple before. We’re talking winds that can surface that can be 80 miles an hour. These will be winds that there will [be] no ability to fight fires.”
These conditions will undoubtedly worsen the conditions faced by crews, and there’s the further fear that these winds will pick up sparks and tote them a few miles down the road to spark new blazes. This will lead to increased statistics, including an uptick on the 110,000 people who have evacuated their homes and 200 structures that have burned to the ground. We will, of course, continue to follow this story and bring further updates as they arrive.