Late Monday night through Tuesday morning, Southern California’s Santa Ana winds (which are exceeding 50 mph) fueled a massive brushfire that has swiftly consumed over 45,000 acres — at a rate that’s possibly 2 to 3 times faster than Northern California’s Santa Rosa fires (the most destructive in the state’s history) in October — and already pushed over 7,000 residents to flee their homes. As the above Associated Press video reveals, at least 40 square miles were scorched overnight with no signs of relief on the horizon.
CNN reports that the quickly-developing disaster has already killed one person, who died during a vehicle rollover amid evacuation panic. So far, the blaze — known as the Thomas Fire — is completely out of control while firefighters struggle to get a foothold as they face access-related difficulties:
About 7,786 homes in Ventura and Santa Paula are under mandatory evacuation as fire officials warned that the powerful winds could turn the flames toward the city of Ventura. The fire is rapidly spreading with 0% containment.
“The fire is still out of control and structures are threatened throughout the fire area,” according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. “Due to the intensity of the fire, crews are having trouble making access, but there are multiple reports of structures on fire.
Local ABC Affiliate KABC reports that the fire has already destroyed over 150 structures in Ventura County north of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Power outages have impacted over 260,000 residents in both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, which have had scant time to react to a fire that initially broke out at 6:30pm PST on Monday. Further compounding matters is that the Santa Ana winds could increase in speed throughout Tuesday.
Officials are warning area residents who haven’t evacuated to get out now. Highway 150 (and as a result, the emergency response) has been severely impacted by this ongoing blaze, and those who wait could be trapped in their neighborhoods.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. We’ll of course keep you posted on further updates as this story develops.