Firefighters in Southern California are facing six wildfires that have wreaked havoc in the region, destroying hundreds of buildings and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
The Thomas Fire is the fifth-largest fire in California’s modern history and began on Monday, Dec. 4 in Ventura County. The blaze has covered more than 230,000 acres and is 15 percent contained as of Monday.
According to CNN, the Thomas Fire claimed one life when 70-year-old Santa Paula died in what officials believe to be a car crash while Paula was trying to flee the fire.
The Creek, Lilac, Rye, and Skirball fires are located in LA County and are more than 80 percent contained. Lastly, the Liberty fire in Riverside County and has been fully contained but officials are keeping an eye due to possible re-ignition due to tropical-storm force Santa Ana winds.
“The winds play a huge part in fires,” Steve Leighton, Operations Division Chief for Reno Fire Dept. said. “The fires that we’ve had here, the Colin fire, the Washoe fire, any large fire we’ve had here. The winds had a big effect on the fire. They need the winds to die down, they need to get enough firefighters there to control and get a perimeter around the fire.”
According to the RGJ, around 126 security inmates from prison camps in Nevada that pose a low-security risk are being deployed to assist in the Thomas Fire in Ventura County.
Nevada Department of Corrections Director James Dzurenda told the RGJ that those being sent are trained and prepared to fight the fires.
To assist in the efforts, the Reno Fire Department has deployed two fire engines as a part of a mutual aid system Nevada has with California.
“When we have fires they send us apparatus and equipment and when they have large fires they ask that we send them apparatus and equipment,” Leighton said. “On large emergencies like that, they don’t have enough firefighters to basically handle the emergencies that are going on or put out the fires. The fires are too big and they’re burning too fast and they’re too large for any single city or fire district to handle those emergencies on their own.”
The fires are not predicted to end any time soon and Governor Jerry Brown has told Southern Californians that the wildfires are a new normal.
“This is kind of the new normal,” Brown said. “With climate change, some scientists are saying that Southern California is literally burning up,” he said. “So we have to have the resources to combat the fires and we also have to invest in managing the vegetation and forests … in a place that’s getting hotter.”
Health officials are strongly encouraging people to avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and limit all physical activity due to the unhealthy air quality that is spreading across the San Fernando Valley and areas in Los Angeles County.
Karolina Rivas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @karolinarrivas.