LOS ANGELES — 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 towards Los Angeles and is now more than twice the size of Washington DC and showing few signs of slowing.
… really fast
The Thomas fire is moving fast. It had grown 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 late Wednesday, the Thomas fire had grown to 96,000 acres.
The 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 10 years ago, in October 2007. Wind gusts in Los Angeles and Ventura counties Thursday will have greater than hurricane-strength force, clocking in up to 80 mph Thursday. 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.
In the dark
About 8,800 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.