Woolsey Fire: Tens of thousands remain evacuated in Southern California as firefighters continue to face challenging conditions
Extreme fire behavior will continue to challenge firefighters in Southern California this week as they look to gain ground on two large wildfires.
The Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fire ignited within a close proximity to each other on Thursday, Nov. 8.
“This is a serious humanitarian as well as economic disaster for the state of California, possibly rivaling the negative impacts of the great earthquakes there," Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather, said.
"At this point, AccuWeather estimates that the total damage and economic impact of the California wildfires has already exceeded $80 billion, and will likely exceed $150 billion and possibly reach $200 billion by next week based on AccuWeather forecast conditions of strong winds and very little rain combined with very dry grounds and vegetation aggravated by lack of rain and strong parched winds. If these conditions and the resulting damage persist at least partially into December, this could well turn out to be one of the U.S.' costliest weather and climate disasters, exceeding the damage caused by recent major hurricanes such as Katrina, Sandy and Harvey."
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Photo/Ventura County Fire Department
(Twitter photo/LA County Fire PIO)
(AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne)
Instagram photo/@chrisamyfj60odyssey/Chris Manella and Amy Mabe
Instagram/LA City Fire
(AP Photo/Reed Saxton)
Ringo H.W. Chiu
Of the two, the Woolsey Fire continues to be the biggest threat to communities as it burns in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. It has charred 98,362 acres and is 57 percent contained as of Thursday morning. Two people have been killed by the blaze, which has also destroyed 504 structures and is currently threatening another 57,000.
Firefighters raced to put out a flare-up of the Woolsey Fire which had reached over 1,000 acres on Wednesday.
A new fire, named the Sierra Fire, broke out near Rialto in San Bernadino County late Tuesday, according to ABC7. The blaze quickly grew to 20 acres, but it appeared to lose its strength after 11 p.m. local time. No structures appeared to catch fire. It is currently at 147 acres and 85 percent contained as of Thursday.
The number of destroyed homes is expected to rise, according to the Associated Press. The two victims were found in a car on a stretch of Mulholland Highway in Malibu, the AP reported.
“We are not out of the woods yet. We still have some incredibly tough conditions ahead of us,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said, according to the AP.
“This dramatic economic loss will cause substantial damage to California’s economy with repercussions to its annual budget potentially resulting ultimately in increased taxes," Myers said. "Deteriorating economic conditions brought on by the negative economic impact of the fires coming on the heels of last year's losses will stress the state’s budget possibly causing the state’s credit to deteriorate which, if it occurs, will result in lower bond ratings and higher interest rates with the snowball effect to greater deficits and more expenses."
“While there is a chance for some meaningful rainfall next week, it is unlikely that we will see enough precipitation to end the fires across Southern California. There is a somewhat better chance for enough rainfall to diminish the fires in Northern California," Myers said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced additional repopulation of impacted areas on Tuesday including the entire city of Hidden Hills.
Mandatory evacuations were still in effect for Los Angeles County residents in Malibu, parts of Calabasas and Topanga. Some residents were allowed to return home on Sunday including those in the communities of Agoura Hills and Westlake Village.
"It may look safe enough to go back and check on your home, but don't do it," Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby said. "The potential dangers you may encounter could cost you your life. We will let you know when it's safe to go home."
Evacuation orders HAVE NOT been lifted for the 75,000 Los Angeles County homes within the Woolsey Fire Evacuation Area. Those displaced by the wildfire are strongly advised not to return to the area until first responders declare the area safe. #WoolseyFire pic.twitter.com/Hy2lsPyiSv— LA County Sheriff's (@LASDHQ) November 11, 2018
Firefighters continue to make significant progress on the Hill Fire, which is burning in Ventura County. It has burned over 4,531 acres and is 96 percent contained.
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The cause of both fires remains under investigation.
In total, at least 50 people have died across the state due to the outbreak of fires. In Northern California, 63 have died and over 600 are missing as a result of the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise.
A state of emergency was declared in Los Angeles and Ventura counties last Friday afternoon due to the fires burning in Southern California. That same day, President Donald Trump approved California's Emergency Declaration, allowing federal assistance to be open to the state.
Southern California Edison said the Woolsey Fire has damaged company infrastructure and caused outages in fire affected areas.
The Malibu and Calabasas campuses of Pepperdine University are now closed through Thanksgiving, and classes are not scheduled to resume until November 26. Shelter locations have opened up throughout the area for evacuees.
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