A fast-moving brush fire, aided by windy and dry conditions, has consumed at least 45,000 acres near Santa Paula, California. The cause of the fire hasn’t yet been determined, but officials said it was first reported around 6:25 p.m. local time Monday and has led to more than 150 structures being destroyed and a firefighter suffering an injury.
Firefighters have been trying to contain the blaze since it erupted, but have had much trouble doing so because of winds in excess of 50 mph. The wind was so out of control Monday night as crews tended to it that overhead drops of water via helicopters were called off for the evening.
The fire has forced officials to call for the mandatory evacuation of hundreds of home in the fire’s path. Winds are pushing the fire southwest toward Santa Paula and Ventura, and it’s anticipated that it will spread to East Ventura by 1 a.m. local time.
“We’re really just trying to catch it around the edges and just pinch it off as quickly as we possibly can,” Ventura County firefighter Jason Hodge told The Los Angeles Times. “(Strong wind is) what’s driving this fire. So it’s a challenge, but everybody’s out there working hard and will be through the night.”
Watch a live stream of the news coverage of the fire at the top of the page. Check below for additional live streams as crews continue to battle the massive blaze.
The fire is believed to be the cause of a massive power outage involving over 150,000 people customers in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, according to KCOY News’ Travis Schlepp.
The Times reported that firefighters were trying to protect homes along Highway 150, just north of Santa Paula, and continuing to evacuate those in its path. Within about one hour, the fire grew from 50 to 500 acres, as hot embers were spread by the strong winds. Check below for the current perimeter of the fire.
A high wind alert and red flag warning remain in effect for Ventura County, with an moderate-to-strong winds reaching “damaging levels” through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
“If fire ignition occurs, there will be the potential for very rapid fire spread, long range spotting, and extreme fire behavior,” the National Weather Service said. “Long range computer models are showing the possibility that the Santa Ana winds could persist into Friday or Saturday, which may require the extension of the red flag warning.”
The Washington Post reported earlier Monday that this could be the “most intense Santa Ana wind event of the season,” with gusts peaking around 60 mph in the foothills and 80 mph in the mountains.
Because of the conditions, officials from the Ventura County Fire said that they had about 100 extra firefighters on call in anticipation that a fire could erupt.
“This is exactly what we have prepared for,” Ventura County Fire Capt. Stan Ziegler told The Times. “This is not a surprise by any means.”
The wildfire in Southern California comes just after widespread blazes in Northern California led to 17 deaths in eight counties.
Click below to see some photos and videos from the Thomas Fire.