California firefighters set to face return of high winds

A raging wildfire pushed towards a string of California coastal cities on Sunday, prompting new evacuations.
Firefighters lighting backfires as they attempt to contain the Thomas Fire, which continues to burn in Ojai. The blaze, which is the largest of the wildfires that have swept across southern California, has blackened 60,000ha in Ventura County and was
Firefighters lighting backfires as they attempt to contain the Thomas Fire, which continues to burn in Ojai. The blaze, which is the largest of the wildfires that have swept across southern California, has blackened 60,000ha in Ventura County and was 15 per cent contained. The blazes have destroyed nearly 800 structures and at least one person has been killed.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

VENTURA (United States) • The Santa Ana winds that have stoked wildfires across southern California, destroying hundreds of buildings and forcing evacuations of about 200,000 people, were forecast to return in force yesterday, the authorities said.

Firefighters had gained some ground battling the fires that have burned over the past week as the winds eased on Saturday. At least one person has been killed.

The Skirball Fire in Los Angeles was 75 per cent contained, while the Creek and Rye Fires in Los Angeles County were 80 per cent and 65 per cent contained, officials said.

The largest blaze, the Thomas Fire, has blackened 60,000ha in Ventura County and was 15 per cent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said in a statement.

Winds and the rugged terrain have hampered firefighting efforts there, the authorities said.

"The fire continues to threaten structures in various parts of the cities of Ventura, Ojai, Casitas Springs, Santa Paula, Carpinteria, Fillmore and the unincorporated areas of Ventura County and Matilija Canyon," Cal Fire said in an update on its website.

The authorities also lifted evacuation orders for sections of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

But the National Weather Service forecast top wind speeds to increase to 88kmh yesterday, up from the 60kmh recorded on Saturday.

The blazes have destroyed nearly 800 structures, and a 70-year-old woman died last Wednesday in a car accident as she attempted to flee the flames in Ventura County.

California Governor Jerry Brown said many scientists believe more extreme fire seasons are part of the pinch of climate change.

"This is kind of the new normal. We're facing a new reality in this state where fires threaten people's lives, their property, their neighbourhoods.

"We know from changing climate that (fires) are going to exacerbate everything else (and) in the longer term, I think we have to think through how are we going to adjust ourselves to nature as it changes," he cautioned, his approach a stark contrast to that of United States President Donald Trump, a doubter of climate change.

Mr Brown added: "We can't expect nature to adjust to our needs."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2017, with the headline 'California firefighters set to face return of high winds'. Print Edition | Subscribe