Santa Ana winds were expected to linger for a final day Thursday after driving more than a dozen wildfires through California, sending thousands fleeing and burning nearly up to the walls of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Firefighters managed to tamp down or at least partially corral fires that for the past few days surged through tinder-dry brush in both the north and south, destroying dozens of homes.
But much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties remained under a National Weather Service red flag warning of extreme fire danger through Thursday evening because of bone-dry humidity and the chance of winds gusting to 70 mph in the mountains.
NWS officials said Santa Clarita, Inglewood, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley will face extreme fire danger Thursday.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Chula Vista were all listed at critical risk.
The gusty Santa Ana winds are still very much alive, although a bit weaker than earlier today, with peak gusts up to 65 mph! Check out the summary of the peak winds from the last 6 hours: https://t.co/lYdy9SVRCT #SoCal #CAwx #LAwind #LAweather
— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) October 31, 2019
The Easy Fire that broke out before dawn Wednesday between the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark north of Los Angeles quickly exploded in size and prompted officials to order about 30,000 people to evacuate, although some were being allowed back home Wednesday night as fire crews began to get a handle on the blaze. Nearby residents had little time to heed evacuation orders as the flames approached.
Another wildfire, the Hill Fire, Wednesday forced the evacuation of two mobile home parks and a psychiatric nursing care facility in Jurupa Valley, 45 miles east of Los Angeles, where elderly people wearing face masks and wrapped in blankets were taken out in wheelchairs and gurneys as smoke swirled overhead. The blaze grew to 200 acres in size before its forward spread was stopped.
Fire crews managed to make good progress against most blazes. The Getty Fire erupted Monday in the wealthy Brentwood area of Los Angeles, burning a dozen homes, was reduced to hot spots and evacuation orders were lifted for most of the thousands who had been told to flee.
As winds buffeted the state this week, utilities deliberately cut power to more than a million people to prevent high winds from damaging power lines and sparking wildfires.
The days of windstorms are not unusual for the fall season, which has seen vicious gusts propel a series of deadly and destructive California wildfires in recent years.
But at least in the short term, there was good news from forecasters.
“This is the last event in our near future. We are not expecting any Santa Anas next week,” weather service meteorologist Kristen Stewart said.
But she noted the forecast only extends out seven days.
“Once we get past that, all bets are off,” she said.