Several uncontrolled fires will worsen Thursday thanks to hurricane-force winds.
Several huge, fast-moving wildfires that have torched more than 100,000 acres — an area more than double the size of Washington, DC — in Southern California this week will worsen Thursday, threatening thousands of lives and homes.
According to the National Weather Service, hurricane-strength 80 mph winds are expected, resulting in an extreme “purple” level fire threat and possible damage. It’s reportedly the first time the agency has ever issued a purple warning in California.
“The sky is orange, you can smell the smoke, and you know people are losing their homes,” said University of California Los Angeles environmental scientist Glen MacDonald. “It really shows you our relative power to nature. We sometimes overestimate how much we can handle.”
The late-season fires, which are affecting several high population areas including the city of Los Angeles, are unusual but not unprecedented. MacDonald said several factors converged this year to create what he called the “perfect fire storm,” California’s worst fire season on record.
After years of drought, a wet winter nourished a bumper crop of grasses, shrubs, and trees throughout the state. Searing summer heat dried out this vegetation, with the Los Angeles region baking under record triple-digit temperatures as late as October. Over the long term, temperature and rainfall patterns are shifting due to climate change throughout California, but the south is getting it worse than the north.
Northern California suffered its own devastating fires in wine country last month, which incinerated 221,000 acres and killed more than 20 people.
For the Los Angeles region, it was only a matter of time before something set all the fuel ablaze. Now gusts reaching 80 mph from seasonal Santa Ana winds are spreading flames and sweeping embers over highways.
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