More 'devil winds' expected to whip up deadly California fires

Flames from the so-called Camp Fire burning near a home atop a ridge near Big Bend, California, last Saturday. The fire has killed at least 23 people.
Flames from the so-called Camp Fire burning near a home atop a ridge near Big Bend, California, last Saturday. The fire has killed at least 23 people.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARADISE (California) • Severe hot and dry "devil winds" kicked up yesterday in fire-ravaged Southern California, and more winds were expected in the north, fanning the flames of wild fires that have killed at least 25 people, officials said.

"This is getting bad," said meteorologist Marc Chenard with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Centre in College Park Maryland.

"We'll get sustained winds of up to 40mph (64kmh) and gusts between 60mph and 70mph," he said early yesterday of the Santa Ana "devil wind" hitting the Los Angeles area. The Woolsey Fire there has been burning since last Thursday in the tinder-dry canyon of Ventura County, killing at least two people.

The air masses blowing across the western US deserts - including Death Valley - towards the coast are expected to bring the sustained high winds at least until tomorrow, he said.

Additional 64kmh winds will blow across the Sierra Nevada foothills in Northern California near Sacramento, where the so-called Camp Fire has claimed at least 23 lives.

The Camp Fire burned down more than 6,700 homes and businesses in Paradise, more structures than any other California wildfire on record, and the death toll, which could rise, also makes it one of the deadliest.

Several of the bodies discovered last week were found in or near burnt cars, police said. An additional 35 people have been reported missing and three firefighters have been injured.

 
 

As of last Saturday, the Camp Fire had blackened more than 40,500ha at the edge of the Plumas National Forest. About 80km to the south, the Woolsey Fire burning in the foothills above Malibu yesterday doubled in size from last Friday, threatening thousands of homes after triggering mandatory evacuation orders for a quarter million people in the upscale beach city as well as other communities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The fire, which has destroyed at least 177 homes and other structures, had charred more than 33,588ha as of last Saturday.

President Donald Trump, who has previously blamed California officials for its wildfires, said on Twitter yesterday that the blazes were the result of poor forest management. State officials have blamed climate change for the fires and said many of them have been in federally managed lands.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2018, with the headline 'More 'devil winds' expected to whip up deadly California fires'. Print Edition | Subscribe