VENTURA, Calif.(CBS, Dec 6,2017): — The same vicious winds that turned three Southern California wildfires into destructive dynamos were also making the firefight more difficult. The water-dropping planes and helicopters essential to taming and containing wildfires have been mostly grounded because it’s too dangerous to fly them in the strong winds. Tuesday saw gusts of over 50 mph.
Commanders hoped to have them back in the air Wednesday morning, but all indications were that the winds would be whipping then too, fanning the flames that spurred evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people, destroyed nearly 200 homes and remained mostly out control.
“The prospects for containment are not good,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a news conference Tuesday. “Really, Mother Nature’s going to decide when we have the ability to put it out.”
Southern California’s so-called Santa Ana winds have long contributed to some of the region’s most disastrous wildfires. They blow from the inland toward the Pacific Ocean, speeding up as they squeeze through mountain passes and canyons.
The largest and most destructive of the fires, an 85-square-mile wildfire in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, had nearly reached the Pacific on Tuesday night after starting 30 miles inland a day earlier.