USA wildfires destroys homes, forces thousands to flee

A firefighter battles the Thomas fire in the town of La Conchita early Thursday

A firefighter battles the Thomas fire in the town of La Conchita early Thursday

The National Weather Service office in Los Angeles and Oxnard says it expects critical fire weather conditions to linger into Saturday, with the winds paired with extremely low humidity.

Almost 200,000 people have been told to evacuate.

While the winds are not yet as strong as they were Tuesday, the worst of the dry and windy weather is yet to come, with gusts of up to 90 miles per hour predicted in some areas tonight and Thursday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Harrison.

Dramatic images have been released that show just how big the California wildfires are.

A wildfire erupted in Los Angeles' exclusive Bel-Air section yesterday as yet another part of Southern California found itself under siege from an outbreak of wind-whipped blazes that have consumed multimillion-dollar houses and tract homes alike.

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But roadways remain closed throughout the region.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The Skirball fire has burned 475 acres and is 5 percent contained.

As of Wednesday morning, about 11,000 households were without power, according to Southern California Edison.

The Santa Ana winds occur most often in the fall and winter.

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Flames burned a wine storage shed at media mogul Rupert Murdoch's 16-acre (6.5-hectare) Moraga Vineyards estate and appeared to have damaged about 7 acres (2.8 hectares) of vines, a spokeswoman said.

Dozens of schools across the area canceled classes on Thursday.

Hundreds of firefighters battled flames on the ground as aircraft dropped water and retardant near neighborhoods on the east side of the pass. Commuter traffic snarled in the pass and beyond.

At the Getty, spokesman Ron Hartwig said they "feel confident we've done everything to protect the Getty and the art collection here". Firefighters rushed to attack the fires before winds picked up again.

The water-dropping planes and helicopters essential to fighting massive fires have been mostly grounded because it's too unsafe to fly in the strong gusts. The Skirball Fire was spread across at least 150 acres at last estimate, authorities said.

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Commanders hoped to have them back in the air on Wednesday morning, but all indications are the winds will be whipping then too.

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