California wildfires: By the numbers
VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. — Barely two months after the wine country fires charred Northern California, the state is once again staring down a spate of wildfires, this time in Southern California. These fires are fueled by some of the strongest Santa Ana winds in recent memory. Here are some eye-popping numbers from these newest fires:
Growing huge …
The Thomas Fire, the largest of the blazes, is burning through Ventura County toward Los Angeles and is now more than twice the size of Washington, D.C. and showing no signs of slowing. The Thomas Fire is more than three times the size of the Tubbs Fire (36,807 acres), which was the most destructive of the fires in Napa and Sonoma counties back in October.
… really fast …
The Thomas Fire is moving fast. It grew about 31,000 acres in about 9 hours — that’s nearly an acre per second the fire was spreading. That rate would burn through Manhattan’s Central Park in about 14 minutes. As of Thursday evening, the fire had grown to 115,000 acres. While it’s nowhere big as the Thomas Fire, the Lilac Fire 45 miles north of San Diego grew exponentially Thursday, from 100 acres to 4,100 in less than 12 hours.
… and is very destructive
With 439 structures destroyed, the Thomas Fire is now the most destructive fire during December in California’s history. The blaze is the 19th most destructive fire in state records, for any month.
The Thomas Fire is the biggest in Los Angeles since the Bel Air fire in 1961 torched the homes of the rich and famous.
Every day, firefighters in Los Angeles receive a brush burning index report that indicates the fire danger. If it’s 165 or higher, that’s considered extreme. The number for Thursday is 296, a record high.
The last time the Santa Ana winds were this bad — with multiple days of warning level winds and red flags — was in October 2007. Wind gusts in Los Angeles and Ventura counties will clock up to 60 mph by late Thursday, some higher in mountain areas. So the risk of the fires spreading will remain high.
More than 50,000 Ventura County residents were evacuated from 15,000 homes in the first 24 hours of the conflagration. By Thursday, 190,000 residents had been evacuated.
In the dark
About 10,000 homes are without power — a sliver of Southern California Edison’s 15 million customers, but those numbers could change because flames were burning along power transmission paths. The number earlier was 43,000 homes.
Smoke on the water
The smoke plume from the fires extends over 1,000 miles into the Pacific, which would stretch from New York City to Miami.
2017 has been the costliest year for wildfires in the US, with over $10 billion in damages before the current Southern California fires began.