Deadly wildfires leave widespread devastation in California


Wildfires have been raging across California, killing a number of residents, forcing mass evacuations, destroying properties, and wreaking havoc in the region. 100 000 residents had to flee on Friday, October 11, after Saddleridge Fire swept through the northern edge of Los Angeles. Three people have been killed in two major fire events.  

One man died of a heart attack on October 11 while talking with firefighters as the Saddleridge Fire raged across San Fernando Valey foothills. Two others were also killed when the Sandalwood Fire swept through a mobile home park in Calimesa.

Reports said both blazes began Thursday night, October 10.

The Saddleridge Fire raced across 3 035 ha (7 500 acres) by Friday, becoming the largest and most dangerous wildfire across Southern California. By October 15, the fire consumed 3 395 ha (8 391 acres) of land. 

The incident also resulted in poor air quality, prompting public schools in the valley to close.

Current reports from the Los Angeles Fire Department said the fire is now 45% contained and authorities have lifted all evacuation orders. 40 establishments have been damaged, but fire officials were able to save thousands of other dwellings.

The fire was stoked by harsh and dry Santa Ana winds from desert areas sweeping through Los Angeles. The winds blew the flames at a rate of 325 ha (800 acres) per hour. "This is a very dynamic fire," Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.

Los Angels County Fire Chief Deputy Dave Richardson also warned residents that an apparent lull in fire activity should not create a false sense of safety. "Don’t be fooled. There’s a lot of potential for additional growth of this fire," he said.

The community of Porter Ranch remained under mandatory evacuation orders. The blaze also put a number of transmission lines at risk. Freeways were closed at the outset of the fire.

Los Angeles Fire Captain Tony Imbrenda said high winds hampered the ability to fight flames from the air, oftentimes causing dissipation of water and fire-fighting drops before they could fall into the ground.

Other areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties were under red alert for further fire danger, according to the National Weather Service.

On the other hand, the Sandalwood Fire in Riverside County, about 110 km (70 miles) east of the Saddleridge Fire, burned about 336 ha (830 acres) and ravaged 76 structures by Friday, October 11.

Among the destruction were dozens of homes at a mobile park. Reports said one person died, along with two others who were unaccounted for.

Riverside County Fire Department (RCFD) said the fire is now 86% contained.

The Sandalwood Fire ignited on October 10 when a garbage truck dumped burning rubbish that spread onto vegetation, said the RCFD and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Featured image credit: Justine. @sassysteen

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