Woolsey Fire: Tens of thousands remain evacuated in Southern California as firefighters continue to face challenging conditions

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
November 16, 2018, 1:33:39 AM EST

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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."

Instagram/Drew Richards

Thousand Oaks, Calif., resident Drew Richards took this picture of his neighborhood shortly before evacuating on Thursday, Nov. 8.

Instagram/Drew Richards

A man watches as the Woolsey Fire rages in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Strong winds blow smoke horizontally over the the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean over the city of Malibu, far distance, in Southern California.

(Photo/Michelle Tucker)

Instagram/scott.murphy00

A Thousand Oaks, Calif., resident posted this photo as the Woolsey Fire flames grew closer to their residence.

Instagram/@dawnmena

A resident in Thousand Oaks, Calif., posted this photo from her home as flames from the massive Woolsey Fire approached her neighborhood.

Twitter photo/@SoCal_Michele

A nearby resident captured this image from an evacuation center in Thousand Oaks, California. The Woosley Fire burns in the distance on Nov. 9, 2018.

Photo/Ventura County Fire Department

The Woolsey Fire is seen in Thousand Oaks California Friday morning.

(Twitter photo/LA County Fire PIO)

The Los Angeles Fire Department posted this photo early Friday morning as officials continue to battle the blaze, which is at 0 percent containment.

(AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne)

Plumes of smoke loom in the sky several miles away, seen behind a home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., as a wind-driven wildfire known as the Hill fire threatens the area late Thursday afternoon, Nov. 8, 2018.

Instagram/@dawnmena

The Woolsey fire raged near Thousand Oaks, Calif., into Friday morning.

Instagram photo/@chrisamyfj60odyssey/Chris Manella and Amy Mabe

As the sun rose over Malibu, Calif., on Friday morning smoke and flames from the Hill and Woolsey fires were visible.

Instagram/LA City Fire

A Los Angeles City firefighter battles the Hill Fire in Southern California.

(Photo/Ken Clark)

The Woolsey Fire near Malibu is seen from a distance in Santa Monica along the 10 Freeway.

Christopher Weber

A child's bike stands outside burned homes and vehicles at Seminole Springs Mobile home Park in Agoura Hills, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxton)

The ruins of a classic Camaro car stands in front of one of at least 20 homes destroyed just on Windermere Drive in the Point Dume area of Malibu, Calif.,Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

Reed Saxon

A table and chairs stand outside of one of at least 20 homes destroyed just on Windermere Drive in the Point Dume area of Malibu, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

Christopher Weber

The sign is all that remains of Kristy's Roadhouse Malibu restaurant, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, after flames tore across hillsides in canyon areas in Agoura Hills, Calif.

Reed Saxon

Flames from a broken gas line burn at one of at least 20 homes destroyed just on Windermere Drive in the Point Dume area of Malibu, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Known as the Woolsey Fire, it has consumed thousands of acres and destroyed dozens of homes.

Ringo H.W. Chiu

Residents Damon Webb, left, and Brendon O'neal clean up the road after the Woolsey fire burned in Malibu, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.


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.

hill and woolsey fire perimeters


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."


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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