Crews Battling California Wildfires Gird for Return of High Winds

Rye Fire Spreads in Santa Clarita

As 4,000 firefighters battled the largest one, the Thomas Fire, the governor surveyed the damage in Ventura County on Saturday (Dec. 9).

Creek Fire: The second-largest blaze ignited a day later in neighboring Los Angeles County.

Forecasters said Santa Ana winds that whipped fires across the region last week were expected to die down later Sunday - but not before creating possible gusts topping 50 miles per hour.

Firefighters in Southern California were on high alert for unsafe fire potential even before the first blazes broke out.

By late Sunday afternoon, the Thomas Fire had destroyed 790 homes and other structures and left 90,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

Thick smoke and intense heat make it hard for low-flying aircraft to capture the extent of a wildfire's damage.

Hospitals across Southern California reported that high numbers of patients with breathing problems caused by this week's wildfires visited emergency rooms.

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This view is from the European Space Agency's Sentinel-2 satellite. The fires have forced some 200,000 people to leave their homes.

The blaze, which had already destroyed more than 750 buildings, burned six more in Carpinteria on Sunday, officials said. The governor, who strongly criticised Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal in an interview with CBS due to be broadcast on Sunday evening, urged United States lawmakers to pay more attention to dealing with natural disasters such as fires, floods and earthquakes.

"The crews were trying to stay out ahead of this as quickly as they could", said Capt. Kendal Bortisser of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention.

The 6,049-acre Rye Fire in Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County) that started Tuesday was 90 percent contained.

Top wind speeds were forecast to increase to 55mph on Sunday from 40mph on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). It has burned 422 acres and is now 85% contained.

Helicopters were also dousing homes with water to protect them from the flames, fire officials said.

Severe fire weather is expected to continue, promoting significant fire growth in Santa Barbara County, where a number of communities are under mandatory evacuation orders.

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At least one home in Carpinteria burned down on Sunday, the Santa Barbara County fire department said.

In all, 834 structures have been destroyed and 118 structures are damaged across Southern California.

The fire was 60 percent contained as of Sunday morning. It grew about 31,000 acres in about nine hours - that's almost an acre per second. Peak gusts had reached 66 miles per hour Thursday afternoon in Pala, California, near the blaze, contributing to the rapid spread of flames.

The Liberty fire, located in Riverside County near Murrieta, north of Temecula, has scorched 300 acres of land.

The "Skirball" fire - near the affluent, star-studded Bel Air district - was at least 50 percent contained after engulfing entire hillsides in flames.

Seven structures were destroyed in the flames, but authorities have lifted all evacuation orders for the area.

Leikin, 74, said she doesn't know the condition of her home and belongings but "none of that means anything when it is your safety". "I don't think it's going to come roaring down unless the winds kick up".

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