Fires set Southern California ablaze


Nate Brenner ’19

A series of massive wildfires sprouted across Southern California, putting thousands of Ventura County residents in danger.

The combination of dry weather and the strongest Santa Ana winds of the season created five wildfires, the largest and most threatening of the bunch coming from Ventura County.

The Thomas fire popped up near Santa Paula, and the wind gusts of 50-70 miles per hour caused the blaze to spread across Ventura County. It spread across 132,000 acres in a span of a few days, forcing thousands of Ventura residents to evacuate. The fire has damaged or destroyed at least 150 structures, caused the closure of Highway 126 and has knocked out power in multiple cities, including Oxnard and Camarillo.

The fire threatened to burn down the apartments of psychology teacher Danielle Ellis, history teacher Katherine Mallen and English teacher Lindsay Jones on Tuesday night. Their complex is on the edge of Newbury Park and Ventura.

“There’s nothing quite like [knowing] everything that you own could go up in flames,” said Ellis. “We were evacuated from our apartments, and I had to go home and pack my belongings. We still have them packed in case we get evacuated again.”

With very strong winds coming from the east, firefighters are struggling to put out the blaze. The fire is currently at 5% containment and is spreading towards Simi Valley and Carpinteria, where Assistant Principal of Attendance Bud Andrews lives; however, he is not worried about the fire.

“It’s certainly concerning,” said Andrews. “I don’t want to dismiss the significance of it, but I was once a police officer, and I am prepared. If I ever have to move out, then I will be ready.”

CVUSD was even forced to close all schools on Wednesday, Dec. 6 because of the poor air quality and to allow students and teachers close to the fire to prepare for any threats.

Maddie Charles ‘18, who lives in Fillmore, also experienced the flames first hand. The fire is about 300 yards from her home, and her father had to save her grandmother’s and aunt’s houses in Ventura.

“I saw the first flames on Monday, and that was already scary,” said Charles. “And now it just keeps getting closer and closer. It’s really nerve-wracking because if the wind shifts at any moment, the fire will hit my house.”

However, Ventura County is not the only region to be affected by the fires. The Rye fire, which currently sits at 5,000 acres, caused mandatory evacuation orders in Santa Clarita and Valencia. The fire also forced the shutdown of the 5 Freeway near Santa Clarita, but it is now roaming through the Santa Susana mountains and no longer poses a threat to homes.

Fires in both Sylmar and San Bernardino also burned and destroyed multiple homes. The fire in San Bernardino was fully contained in the afternoon of Wednesday. Dec. 6, but the Sylmar fire still possesses a strong threat to spread from its already massive 12,000 acre size; over 100,000 people have received mandatory evacuation orders.

There is also a fire near Bel-Air, where a 500 acre fire sprouted in the early morning of Wednesday, Dec. 6. The fire destroyed multiple homes in the area, shut down the 405 Freeway and poses a strong threat to the Getty and Skirball Museums and hundreds of houses in the area.

The latest fires to grow come from Murrieta and San Diego, where the Liberty and Lilac Fires are threatening homes. The Liberty fire is only 300 acres and is 5% contained, while the Lilac fire is 4,100 acres and is growing at an alarming rate.

California is no stranger to fires this year. Earlier in October, Northern California suffered massive damage from a wildfire which originated in Santa Rosa. The fire destroyed over 3,000 homes and killed dozens of people trying to escape the flames. The state of California requested almost 8 billion dollars from the federal government for long term recovery efforts.

Now, the damage from the fires in SoCal will surely increase the cost, and recovery efforts have already begun. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and called for FEMA and Red Cross to begin aiding the affected cities and families.

With low humidity and more Santa Ana winds in the forecast, there is still a major possibility of more fires spreading across Southern California through the weekend. For local news and emergency updates on the Thomas fire, please visit