Four separate wildfires have been raging out of control for days in Southern California, and authorities are struggling to contain the blaze, leaving those outside of the immediate area to wonder just how far the devastation could spread before it's over. Will the California wildfires reach Sacramento? The largest of the four fires, the Thomas fire, began in Ventura County on Monday night, according to NPR, destroying hundreds of structures and causing thousands of people to evacuate. Strong gusts from the Santa Ana winds have helped to spread the blaze across the county. An estimated "7- or 8-mile stretch of flames" was running through the mountains and into neighborhoods by Tuesday night.
Three smaller fires are also ongoing; the Creek fire just north of Los Angeles, the Rye fire in Santa Clarita, and the Skirball fire, which is still relatively tiny, but notable for the fact that it's burning in the densely populated Los Angeles area, causing freeway shutdowns and school closings. The Thomas fire is the northernmost of the four, but it's still about 350 miles south of Sacramento, so there's no immediate danger to the state's capital, but according to ABC News, it's spread to 108,000 acres, and was only 5 percent contained as of Thursday morning, so the spreading is likely to continue.
The fires are burning mostly in the forests, which are extremely dry for this time of year, but the Thomas fire did manage to cross Highway 101 on Tuesday night, according to the Sacramento Bee. However, it would have to cross much larger swaths of developed area in order to make its way north to Sacramento. Hypothetically, if it did manage to spread east through the Bakersfield area, it would find plenty of fuel along the densely wooded path of national parks and forest that runs north from Sequoia National Forest in Sierra all the way to the Canadian border. Traveling at a rate of anywhere between 6 and 14 mph (depending on the terrain), that would still take at least three days.
Realistically, though, there's no cause for panic right now. The Northern California wildfires in October were much closer to Sacramento, but they still stayed clear of the city. A total of 250 wildfires burned at various times throughout Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano Counties over a three-week period, according to CAL FIRE, eventually destroying 245,000 acres of land. All told, 44 people were killed, and the damages reached $9 billion, according to the Bee, making it the most costly fire in U.S. history (for now).
Right now, the focus is on Southern California, where firefighters and the National Guard have been battling the flames with little progress. For perspective, CNN has reported that the Thomas fire is now encompassing an area roughly the same size as Denver, Colorado. The same strong winds that have been fanning the flames also forced the landing of planes sent to drop fire retardant on the area on Thursday morning. 110,000 people have been driven from their homes, and nearly 9,000 more homes have lost power. Hundreds of schools in 15 separate districts remain closed.
If you'd like to help victims of the California wildfires, the United Way of Ventura County, American Red Cross of Ventura County, and the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services have partnered together to create the Thomas Fire Fund. You can donate through the fund's website or by texting UWVC to 41444. The Humane Society of Ventura County has been taking in animals displaced by the fires, and is now nearly at capacity, and in need of supplies. Check its Facebook page for the most urgent requests, or you can donate on its website or purchase items on its Amazon wish list.
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