By Nathan Solis, Courthouse News
Half a dozen wildfires across Southern California continued to burn Friday morning, but firefighters made progress overnight in a week fraught with massive evacuations, highway and school closures and the loss of more than 50 horses.
On Friday, President Donald Trump freed federal resources in an emergency declaration for Southern California counties hit by wildfires.
The largest blaze, the Thomas Fire, has burned 132,000 acres in Ventura County and destroyed 150 structures, including homes, according to Cal Fire. It is 10 percent contained.
Ventura, Santa Paula and nearby communities saw evacuation orders due to the Thomas Fire, which has been fanned by persistent strong winds. More than 10,000 structures are currently threatened, and the number of destroyed homes and structures is expected to rise as fire personnel assess the full extent of damage. The cause remains under investigation, according to Cal Fire.
Strong winds whipped up a fire in San Diego County on Thursday morning that quickly grew to 4,100 acres. The Lilac Fire, burning near the town of Bonsall north of San Diego, has destroyed 65 structures. There is no word on containment at this time, Cal Fire said.
According to the Associated Press, 25 racing horses valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars each died when eight barns at the San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall were engulfed in flames on Thursday. Nearly 500 horses were stabled at the center when the fire started.
Twenty-nine horses also died earlier this week in the Creek Fire, burning in the Los Angeles County city of Sylmar. The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Control said the horses were locked in their stalls. Animal Control officers were able to rescue several horses and a puppy, but could not immediately enter the barn due to the flames.
Some horses were returned to their concerned owners and three horses are receiving veterinary treatment at Pierce College, according to Don Barre with Animal Control.
Firefighters made progress in containing both the Creek and Skirball fires, the latter burning in the ritzy enclave of Bel-Air in Los Angeles County.
Situated on steep terrain near along the Sepulveda Pass, the Skirball Fire has destroyed 12 structures, some of which were large mansions situated near the Getty Center museum. The fire has burned 476 acres and is 30 percent contained, though more than 700 homes remain evacuated in a three-mile area.
The Creek fire has burned more than 15,000 acres and is 40 percent contained. According to Cal Fire, five homes and 10 outbuildings have been destroyed.
Nearby, the Rye Fire in the city of Valencia has burned approximately 6,000 acres and is 35 percent contained, CalFire said. The fire rings the city and 5,460 structures are threatened. Containment is expected in seven days. One firefighter was reported injured.
In San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles, firefighters mopped up a handful of fires totaling less than 500 acres, according to fire personnel.
The National Weather Service said a red flag warning will remain in effect through Saturday for most of Southern California due to the Santa Ana winds.