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California Wildfires: Hurricane-Force Winds May Threaten Any Progress To Contain the Blazes

The fires of southern California continue to rage and there’s no sign of them stopping on Thursday.

The color-coded system that reflects the expected strength of winds in the area has reached “purple,” a rating never before used. According to Ken Pimlott, director at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the state has previously forecast winds in the yellow, orange, and red range—the last of which means “high.” Thursday’s forecast is purple, a color that signifies “extreme.”

CBS reports that these winds, which could hit 80 miles an hour, will likely reverse any progress firefighters have made in combatting the blazes. Strong winds can carry embers, sparking new fires or expanding a small fire into a much larger one.

A firefighter stomps out small embers near a home threatened by the Creek Fire in Sylmar, California
A firefighter stomps out small embers on a ranch during the Creek Fire in the San Fernando Valley on Tuesday. JONATHAN ALCORN—REUTERS
Jonathan Alcorn—Reuters

There are at least four separate fires burning throughout southern California, which have led to the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people across the region. The Thomas Fire in Ventura County that started on Monday has led to the evacuations of some 27,000 people as it’s engulfed 65,000 acres. The Rye Fire has consumed 7,000 acres, while the Creek Fire has reached more than 11,000 acres. The Skirball Fire, meanwhile, has covered 475 acres. Skirball has led to the closure of the Getty Museum and is threatening dozens of Hollywood homes.

A firefighting helicopter passes by the smoke covered sun during an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles in Sylmar
A firefighting helicopter flies over an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the San Fernando Valley on Tuesday. GENE BLEVINS—REUTERS
Gene Blevins—Reuter

A Wednesday night update from USA Today showed the Thomas and Creek fires as only 5% contained. The Skirball Fire is reportedly 10% contained. Thursday’s winds are expected to interrupt firefighters’ efforts to further contain the flames.