The rainy season in Southern California should have started on October 1, 2017. Since then, however, the region has seen almost no rain and will remain dry until mid-December. Southern California is now a tinderbox. We are on the fourth day of a swarm of wildfires across Southern California. At least six active wildfires are burning right now. That’s nearly the total of all large December wildfires from 2000 to 2015. Today’s Santa Ana winds are predicted to be the strongest of the week and continue to keep the wildfire threat high.
Here is what we know at 11:45 a.m. Thursday:
The Skirball fire is now 20 percent contained. The fire has burned 475 acres and destroyed 4 homes and damaged 11 more.
The Creek fire near Sylmar has also held at 12,605 acres burned and 10 percent containment. 30 homes have been destroyed by the fire.
At 7,000 acres burned and 15 percent containment, the Rye fire in Santa Clarita has also held steady overnight.
The largest fire in Southern California, the Thomas fire in Ventura County, continues to rage. 140 square miles have been burned as well as 200 homes. Thousands have been evacuated and the 101 Freeway has been closed at times due to the fire.
A fire in Malibu, the Horizon fire, was quickly addressed and despite being close to homes, is now knocked down.
There are also new fires in the Inland Empire, including one near the 15 Freeway that has slowed morning commutes.
Let’s now speak about this wildfire anomaly
Looking at the graph below, you will observe a mere seven California fires that burned more than 300 acres when totaling December numbers from 2000 to 2015. The second lowest months were January and February with 11 such wildfires. Of the seven fires in December from 2000 to 2015, four were in Southern California and two were in Ventura County.
The total acres burned in those seven fires was 21,090. The fire burning right now in Ventura County, called the Thomas fire, is estimated to have already burned 65,000 acres – almost three times the acreage of the other December fires. The previous largest fire in December was the Shekell fire in Ventura which burned 13,600 acres in 2006.
Even before the start of this week’s fires, this year was going down as the most destructive wildfire season in California history. Wildfire suppression for the Forest Service costs for the fiscal year exceeded $2 billion, making it the most expensive year on record.
“Fuel. Ignition. Meteorology. Each component of the formula are off the charts this year. When all three elements in the equation are supersized, you’re set up for apocalyptic conditions.”