Netizen 24 ISR: California wildfires jump major freeway, head for communities northwest of LA

California wildfires jump major freeway, head for communities northwest of LA ...

California wildfires jump major freeway, head for communities northwest of LA

Advertisment Updated California wildfires jump major freeway, head for communities northwest of L.A.

Dangerous gusts expected, but ones not likely to approach historic levels that forecasters had feared

The Associated Press Posted: Dec 07, 2017 9:32 AM ET Last Updated: Dec 07, 2017 11:21 AM ET

A fire crew passes a b   urning home during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, Calif., on Tuesday. Firefighting officials are planning for extremely high winds in the forecast, as they could turn a tiny fire into a large one, or carry embers that spark new fires kilometres away.

A fire crew passes a burning home during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura, Calif., on Tuesday. Firefighting officials are planning for extremely high winds in the forecast, as they could turn a tiny fire into a large one, or carry embers that spark new fires kilometres away. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Close California wildfires rage

California wildfires rage 0:37

California wildfires rage 0:37

Authorities closed a major freeway Thursday as flames from the largest and most destructive Southern California wildfire jumped lanes and churned toward coastal and mountain communities northwest of Los Angeles amid unpredictable winds.

A more favourable wind forecast still called for potentially dangerous gusts, but ones not likely to approach historic levels forecasters had feared, according to the National Weather Service.

"This is good news for the fire crews as the winds will not be driven quite as vigorously," a weather service statement said.

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Calmer overnight conditions helped crews protect the Ventura County resort town of Ojai, where most of the 7,000 residents were under new evacuation orders following a big burst of wind late Wednesday. Evacuations were also ordered for the first time in Santa Barbara County, where the coastal city of Carpinteria was under threat.

Officials closed U.S. 101 for dozens of kilometres along the coast, cutting off a major route between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for several hours as fire charred heavy brush along lanes.

Massive wildfires in California force over 100,000 people from homes1:38

Southern California has been hit hard by four major fires that have put tens of thousands of people under evacuation orders and destroyed nearly 200 homes and buildings, a figure that is almost certain to grow.

Millions of cellphones buzzed loudly Wednesday night from San Diego to Santa Barbara with a sound that usually means an Amber Alert, but this time meant a rare weather warning for strong winds making extreme fire danger.

Officials hope the electronic push will keep the region alert and the death toll from the week's fires at zero.

Melissa Rosenzweig, 47, was briefly back home Wednesday after her house was evacuated in Ventura, which has been spared so far while most on her stre et had burned in the largest and most destructive of the region's fires. She and her husband were about to leave again, hoping they will get lucky twice as the new winds arrive.

"Heck yeah I'm still worried," Rosenzweig said. "We're very grateful, but I know we're not out of the woods."

In what may have been an early sign of the 363-square-kilometre fire getting new life, several thousand new evacuations were ordered Wednesday night in Ojai, a town of artists and resorts. The blaze had been creeping there already, but an increase in winds pushed it close enough for many more to flee.

Massive fires continue to rage in California1:05

Wild winds could easily send make new fires explode, too, as one did Wednesday in the exclusive Bel-Air section of Los Angeles, where a fire consumed multimillion-dollar houses that give the rich and famous sweeping views of the city.

Little flame was visible by late Tuesday, but on Wednesday, fire exploded on the steep slopes of Sepulveda Pass, closing a section of heavily travelled Interstate 405 and destroying four homes.

Flames burned a wine storage shed at media mogul Rupert Murdoch's 6.5-hectare Moraga Vineyards estate and appeared to have damaged about 2.8 hectares of vines, a spokeswoman said.

Across the wide I-405 freeway from the fire, the Getty Center art complex was closed to protect its collection from smoke damage. Many schools across Los Angeles were closed because of poor air quality and classes were cancelled at 265 schools Thursday.

Back in the beachside city of Ventura, the fire killed more than two dozen horses at a stable and had destroyed at least 150 structures, a number expected to get far bigger once firefighters are able to assess losses.

Air tankers that had been grounded much of the week because of high winds flew on Wednesday, dropping flame retardant. Firefighters rushed to attack the fires before winds picked up again.

"We're basically in an urban firefight in Ventura, where if you can keep that house from burning, you might be able to slow the fire down," said Tim Chavez, a fire behaviour specialist at the blaze. "But that's about it."

California Wildfires

A firefighter hoses down smouldering debris in Ventura on Tuesday. Ferocious Santa Ana winds raking Southern California whipped explosive wildfires Tuesday, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of homes. (Daniel Dreifuss via Associated Press)

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