Firefighters could make progress on California fires as winds die down Friday

CNN's Bill Weir reports from San Bernardino, California, and surveys the extensive damage left by the Hillside Fire.

Posted: Nov 1, 2019 4:30 AM
Updated: Nov 1, 2019 4:30 AM

The strong winds that have fanned the multiple fires raging across California are expected to subside Friday, giving firefighters a better chance at containing the blazes.

Higher humidity and diminishing winds, conditions less favorable for spreading wildfires, are expected across California Friday into Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

For several days, firefighters have been battling flames as furious winds -- some as strong as hurricane-force -- have stoked them. At least 12 active wildfires are currently threatening the state.

The latest, called the Maria Fire, broke out Thursday night in Ventura County. The fast-moving fire had spread to 5,000 acres and was 0% contained late Thursday, the Ventura County Fire Deparment said.

Multiple fires are burning

Of the active fires burning in California, more than half broke out this week. The fires stretch across the state from Mendocino County in the north to San Diego County in the south.

The biggest fire, the Kincade Fire, has incinerated parts of the wine country in Sonoma County since last week.

Together, the fires had burned through about 100,000 acres by Thursday night.

In the Los Angeles area, firefighters are battling multiple blazes, including the Getty Fire and Easy Fire.

The Getty Fire began Monday and is threatening more than 7,000 homes, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. The blaze was 52% contained Thursday night, the fire department said.

And about 40 miles northwest of the city, the Easy Fire broke out in Simi Valley Wednesday. Wind gusts of hurricane force -- at least 74 mph -- were reported at a weather station about seven miles north of Simi Valley on Thursday.

The Easy Fire has consumed more than 1,800 acres in Ventura County and threatened 6,500 homes, officials said. The fire forced school closures and mandatory evacuations of about 30,000 people in Simi Valley, officials said. It was 60% contained Thursday night.

The Ventura County Fire Department was sending resources from the Easy Fire to help contain the Maria Fire, Captain Brian McGrath of the fire department said.

'Pictures I didn't save'

The Hillside Fire destroyed at least six homes near San Bernardino Thursday, officials say.

Matthew Valdivia's family home was one of those destroyed. He evacuated with his wife and children, but their home burned to the ground.

"It hurts, but this can get replaced," he said. "You can't replace a life. That was my priority -- just my kids, and making sure everybody was aware."

One thing he regrets not grabbing: a laptop with the only copies of some baby photographs of his kids.

"That's the only thing that hurts my feelings a lot -- pictures I didn't save," he said.

California's biggest fire is far from contained

North of the San Francisco Bay, the week-old Kincade Fire -- the state's largest active wildfire -- has destroyed nearly 78,000 acres across Sonoma County and more than 260 structures, including more than 130 single-family homes, officials said.

It was about 65% contained as of early Friday.

The Kincade Fire started October 23, but the cause is still under investigation.

The state has secured grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help fight several fires, including the Easy Fire and blazes in San Bernardino and Riverside County, the governor's office said. The grants allow affected local and state and agencies to apply for a 75% reimbursement of eligible fire suppression costs.

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