Relentless Santa Ana winds continue to fan devastating California wildfires

Irfan Khan—LA Times via Getty Images

Irfan Khan—LA Times via Getty Images

No major institution so far has said it has incurred damage, but, as of midday, more than 150 buildings and homes have been destroyed in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, and almost 12,000 more buildings are potentially threatened by four fires threatening various areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

In the hours before sunrise, wildfire embers fueled by strong Santa Ana winds shot up into the air above traffic, creating a fiery hellscape that heated drivers' windows and temporarily shut down the interstate.

"As expected winds have increased dramatically", Cal Fire, the agency responsible for fire protection in the state, said on Twitter.

Commanders hoped to have them back in the air on Wednesday morning, but all indications were that the winds will be whipping then too, fanning the flames that spurred evacuation orders for almost 200,000 people, destroyed almost 200 homes and remained mostly out control.

Over 1,000 firefighters battled to save homes, with one suffering a minor injury, he added.

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"If the winds pick up, we will face quite a challenge".

Fire crews worked to save luxury homes threatened by the flames.

The largest and most destructive of the fires, an 85-square-mile (220-sq. kilometer) wildfire in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, had almost reached the Pacific on Tuesday night after starting 30 miles (48 kilometers) inland a day earlier.

Elsewhere, use of firefighting aircraft has been constrained by the same winds that have spread the fires. Three firefighters were injured and hospitalized in stable condition, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. Authorities say 12,000 structures in the region are threatened and more than 200,000 people are under evacuation orders.

"This fire is very unsafe and spreading rapidly, but we'll continue to attack it with all we've got", Brown said. It was 5 percent contained, while the other fires had no containment.

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The fire is burning in Santa Clarita, about 30 miles (48km) north of Los Angeles, according to KABC. By comparison, the Times reports the Creek fire has burned through some 14,000 acres, while the Rye fire has burned about 7,000 acres.

California utility companies can be held financially liable for wildfire damage linked to their equipment, even if they followed all applicable safety rules.

Winds will gradually weaken Friday and Saturday, officials said.

"Based on the apparent location of the origin of both the Thomas fire in the Ventura and Santa Barbara area and the Creek Fire in Sylmar, and the performance of SCE's system, SCE has no indication that the company's facilities were a source of these fires", it said in a press release.

One key facet of helping protect people from wildfires is preventing and avoiding them in the first place.

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