Raging California wildfires confirmed to have claimed woman's life


In addition to the 401 destroyed structures - majority homes - another 81 have been damaged, and 15,000 more remain threatened in Carpinteria, Santa Paula, Ventura, Matilija Canyon and surrounding unincorporated areas, fire officials said.

"It's December, and it's fantastic to be able to say we aren't out of fire season", Pimlott said.

"[We're] facing a new reality in the state", he said.

More than 8,500 firefighters are working to get the fires under control.

If that happens, winds could push the fire toward Santa Barbara County, including the coastal communities of Carpinteria and Summerland.

A huge plume of smoke flared from the fire in the Ventura County mountains and was visible on satellite images, the US National Weather Service said. Extreme fire danger will remain in the region through the weekend.

The strike team and two task forces from Montana are scheduled to spend the next 16-days in Southern California. Firefighting efforts were hampered overnight by wind and topography, fire officials said, but the blaze was 15 percent contained. This area will be of particular concern for fire growth on Saturday night and Sunday.

There have also been high winds.

Winds gusted to over 60 miles per hour in Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Thursday, causing embers to spread even more. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits.

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

Overall, the six blazes have burned more than 175,000 acres and forced over 212,000 residents from their homes.

The fires are the second outbreak to ravage parts of California this autumn.

On Saturday, the Ventura County Fire Department warned the Thomas Fire was expected to spread toward Santa Barbara and a new evacuation order was issued.

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Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula, was found dead Wednesday night along an evacuation route near a fire northwest of Los Angeles.

Resources continue to pour in to fight the Thomas fire that has burned 148,000 acres, destroyed 401 structures and been pushed almost to the Santa Barbara County line by gusting Santa Ana winds over the past several days.

Gov. Jerry Brown remained optimistic as he was scheduled to visit the scene of the Thomas Fire. Firefighters continued to encounter difficulty on the east side of the blaze above Fillmore. "I didn't know if we'd make it".

At least three residents were hurt in the evacuation, but Garcetti said no deaths have been reported.

It was not yet clear how many horses had died but all of Friday's races at Los Alamitos racecourse were cancelled as the racing community mourned.

The blaze was 80 percent contained as of Saturday morning, and 1,964 personnel are fighting the flames.

Earlier in the week, a fast-moving Creek fire in Sylmar resulted in the deaths of almost 30 horses at Rancho Padilla.

And the Skirball firem which burned in the pricey residential neighborhood of Bel-Air and took several homes with it, was at 50 percent containment, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Six houses have been destroyed and a dozen damaged in the fire, authorities said.

Fixed-wing air tankers won't be used on the fire until flight conditions improve, fire officials said. The blaze destroyed two structures and prompted evacuations and road closures.

As of Friday morning, the Liberty fire in Murrieta was at 300 acres and 60% contained.

Numerous estimated 7,500 residents forced to evacuate continue to wait for permission to return home, with firefighting officials saying they're reluctant to let residents go back because they could be forced to evacuate again if fires flare up. Peak gusts had reached 66 miles per hour Thursday afternoon in Pala, California, near the blaze, contributing to the rapid spread of flames.

Horses that survived the Lilac fire in their stalls are loaded onto a trailer early Friday morning.

"The good news is, we have more resources than we've ever had before on the ground and in the air to hopefully knock these fires out before they become big ones".