Over 115,000 acres in Los Angeles and 96,000 acres in Ventura County are currently engulfed in flames, and intense Santa Ana winds are impeding containment efforts.
On Thursday, firefighting agencies warned that the Santa Ana wind gusts are expected to reach over 80 mph, The San Diego Tribune reports. The extremely dry conditions in the area have also contributed to the intensity of the wildfires. A state of emergency has been declared by San Diego County as of Thursday afternoon, according to CNBC.
By Wednesday night, winds in Ventura County had reached 85 mph. Although they improved throughout the day, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said conditions could worsen at any moment.
"The prediction is, even though this is a time of calm winds, that we will continue to get gusts through Saturday that will be erratic and unpredictable, as high as 50 to 70 miles an hour," Garcetti said during a press conference Thursday afternoon, as reported by CNBC. "These conditions...make this a very threatening environment."
The powerful Santa Ana winds are described by the National Weather Service as a "weather condition in which strong, hot, dust-bearing winds descend to the Pacific Coast around Los Angeles from inland desert regions."
"The fast, hot winds cause vegetation to dry out, increasing the danger of wildfire," the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences explains. "Once the fires start, the winds fan the flames and hasten their spread."
As of Thursday evening, The New York Times reports that 300 homes and businesses have been destroyed, intense conditions have forced the closure of the 101 freeway and other roads, and all residents of Los Angeles County have received an emergency alert.
For a list of ways to help victims of the Southern California wildfires, click here.