First death reported as 200000 flee California wildfires

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The conditions expected throughout San Diego County were even more extreme than the dry, windy conditions that fanned the three wildfires that have burned more than 20,000 acres in the Los Angeles area, as well as the 90,000-acre Thomas Fire in Ventura County.

They show smoke billowing across the Pacific Ocean from multiple fires, the largest of which is the Thomas fire in Ventura County.

The winds blow in hot and dry from the California desert, and the state CAL FIRE agency said gusty winds and extremely low humidity would continue through Sunday.

Southern California residents and visitors fleeing the wildfires raging around Los Angeles are contending with a new problem - mapping apps that are reportedly directing them towards areas that are on fire.

More: California fires: Why is everything burning?

The containment figure is likely to go up Thursday evening, Mayor Eric Garcetti said at an afternoon news briefing in which he reported that the fire has destroyed 15 homes and damaged another 15.

About 90 minutes south of Los Angeles, two fires were moving swiftly toward the town of Murrieta, scarring more than 900 hectares (2200 acres) of land and threatening hundreds of homes.

Still, said Hartwig, "this is the single best place for any art collection to be in the midst of a fire disaster like this".

This NASA Earth Observatory natural-color image taken on Dec. 5 shows the wildfires in Ventura County Calif
This NASA Earth Observatory natural-color image taken on Dec. 5 shows the wildfires in Ventura County Calif

In a press conference on Wednesday, LAPD commander Blake Chow said that some navigation apps are correctly identifying traffic-free streets, but that the reason they were unjammed was because they happened to be on fire.

Most of Ojai's 7,000 residents were warned to clear out late Wednesday and patients unable to walk were moved from the Ojai Valley Community Hospital because of unprecedented, hurricane-force Santa Ana winds in the overnight forecast. At their most powerful, the winds can wreck destruction throughout the region, knocking down trees and power lines.

Fred Burris, a Ventura County Fire Department battalion chief, was finishing a 24-hour shift that included helping to protect La Conchita.

"At this point it's safe to say that we will not see any rain next week", Clark said.

About 10 miles south of Carpinteria, Richard Floyd watched flames burn down a steep hillside toward his aunt's 32-acre avocado orchard, flaring with the wind gusts. "I know we were going over 100 miles per hour (160 kph), we could have been going much more, and just hoped for the best".

While helicopters bombarded the blaze from above with water drops, firefighters armed with chainsaws struggled to clear away the thick brush that was feeding the fire. The Skirball fire is the smallest of the wildfires now, but its threat to heavily populated areas of Los Angeles has drawn widespread attention.

"There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds", Pimlott said.