An explosive brush fire raced through Southern California with ferocious speed Tuesday, spreading from about 50 acres to an estimated 45,000 acres in a matter of hours, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee.
Named the Thomas Fire, it began in a canyon near Santa Paula, about 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. By 4 a.m. Pacific time, the fire had advanced into the city limits of Ventura, with a population of more than 100,000, emergency officials said.
“The prospects for containment are not good,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said a news briefing overnight. “Really, Mother Nature’s going to decide if we have the ability to put it out.”
The cause of the fire was not known Tuesday morning, Lorenzen said.
The fire – which had grown to cover an area roughly the size of Washington, D.C. – quickly displaced scores of people as it began to chew through the region.
At a briefing early Tuesday, Lorenzen said 27,000 people had been evacuated, and “almost none of them know the status of their homes.” There was also “a high possibility” that more areas would be evacuated, Lorenzen warned.
At least 150 structures were destroyed by the fire, Lorenzen said, though he added that this number is expected to increase in the coming days, noting that firefighters were not able to assess damage in most areas where the blaze had spread.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Travis M. Andrews, J. Freedom Du Lac, Mark Berman