California fire weather less dire than predicted

The Skirball fire prompted a full closure of the 405 Freeway and mandatory evacuations

And downtown Los Angeles has received just 0.11 inches of rainfall since the beginning of October, typically the region's west season, according to data from the National Weather Service.

After two days of intense firestorms, Southern California is bracing for perhaps its most challenging day as Santa Ana winds that spread the infernos are expected to peak Thursday. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits.

A total of six major fires are now burning, and flames are heading south toward Santa Barbara and San Diego.

The flames have swallowed some 80,000 acres in just over a day since the "Thomas" fire, now the state's largest, broke out, leaving at least one dead in an area about 45 minutes from downtown LA.

The forecast is disturbing enough that the Los Angeles school system has canceled classes in many San Fernando Valley schools and officials are bracing for more fires across the region.

All Santa Monica-Malibu Los Angeles Unified School District schools will be closed Wednesday due to the fire.

Some of those who fled as flames closed in had time to do little more than run.

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"But these are also days that show the resilience of our city", Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, thanking firefighters from Los Angeles and other agencies and all city personnel.

The fire was only 5 percent contained as of Wednesday night. A dozen Ventura County fire engines staged along the road near midday, the fire burning in the avocado and citrus orchards along the ridge-line above.

The Thomas Fire is moving fast. "It's very sad", said one resident standing near the fence of a ranch in the rural area, where many horses have had to be evacuated. And by midmorning Wednesday, the Skirball fire had already consumed a half-dozen mansions and 150 acres of some of L.A.'s most expensive and desirable properties, The Los Angeles Times reported. The horses were trapped in a barn that burned to the ground as the owners were evacuated with no warning.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas said the footprint of the Skirball Fire is the same as the 1961 Bel Air Fire, which destroyed around 500 homes.

Mandatory evacuations are in place in Bel Air this morning as a fast-moving brush fire that erupted near the 405 freeway near the Getty Center climbed up the hillside, threatening an unknown number of homes.

Warning of "extreme" fire behavior, authorities and said those fighting the Creek Fire were facing multiple difficulties.

The Rye fire has scorched 7,000 acres in Santa Clarita, west of Valencia.

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