California firefighters on Friday sought to take advantage of a brief lull in high winds behind fast-moving wildfires that forced the evacuation of more than 40,000 residents north of Los Angeles and another 2,000 in the state’s wine country.
With winds abating, crews worked overnight to battle a newly-started fire about 64km north of Los Angeles that was threatening 10,000 homes and businesses, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
Officials warned residents not to be deceived by the overnight lull, as the National Weather Service forecast a pickup in hot, dry winds by Friday morning with gusts of 45 to 55 mph (72 to 89 kph) and temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).
“Let’s not let our guard down,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. She told a press conference 40,000 to 50,000 residents had been forced from homes by late Thursday with “numerous” structures destroyed.
California’s wildfires generally erupt in the autumn as hot, dry Santa Ana winds blow westward from the desert after a dry summer. Last year, at least 85 people died in one of the deadliest such fires, known as the Camp Fire in Butte County.
The so-called Tick Fire, which began on Thursday afternoon just outside the city of Santa Clarita, had consumed about 4,000 acres and was only 5% contained as of late Thursday, the county fire department said.