Dangerous Santa Ana winds continue to elevate fire danger across Southern California, with winds predicted to reach 80 miles an hour in some places on Thursday, according to CAL Fire.
Maps of the region showed “high danger” of fires in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, as flames and smoke shut down schools and separated commuters from their workplaces. At one point Wednesday, more than 200,000 Southern Californians were under evacuation orders.
Thousands of students stayed home as Santa Monica College, UCLA, and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District canceled classes. Hundreds of teachers and staff for SMMUSD became separated from their classrooms when the Skirball Fire broke out near the Getty Center. Video taken by drivers showed a raging hillside in the dark of night as commuters tried to get across the Sepulveda Pass before the officials shut down the 405 Freeway in Brentwood.
“We would not have been able to get in the number of substitute teachers we need in order to have a regular schedule and regular classes,” SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker told the Daily Press. Parents should continue to monitor their inboxes, television and social media for up to the minute information the rest of the week.
SMMUSD plans to remain closed Thursday.
A Red Flag warning remains in effect for Southern California through Friday, promising to blow smoke and ash across the region and potentially down trees and power lines. Air quality remains poor in Santa Monica and the City urged residents to reduce outdoor and physical activity, canceling outdoor programs.
“Particulate matter from a forest fire, is smaller in size that our normal environmental pollutants, causing these particles to get deeper into the lungs,” said Gilbert J. Kuhn Jr., M.D. at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. “People who are over 65 years old or those with preexisting respiratory and heart problems (such as coronary artery disease) as well as young children…should stay indoors with all windows and doors closed, and use an HEPA air filter, if possible.”
Raging fires in neighboring communities meant off-duty firefighters came to work in the city, as the Fire Department sent 13 members to nearby wildfires. SMFD sent an engine and a battalion chief to help with the Creek Fire burning in the Sylmar Area late Tuesday night. SMFD is currently helping Los Angeles with multiple structure fires. SMFD also sent two engines to the Thomas Fire in Ventura County late Monday night as part of the Mutual Aid Strike Team with Culver City FD and Beverly Hills FD.
Public Information Officer Constance Farrell said local fire and police departments as well as libraries remained fully staffed, despite the number of employees cut off by the closure of the Sepulveda Pass Wednesday. The freeway eventually reopened in the afternoon. Public Libraries served as a place to escape the poor air quality outside.
“It’s an evolving situating so we’ve had to move really quickly to understand the scope of the impact,” Farrell said.