Beginning Monday night, dry conditions combined with the most intense Santa Ana wind event of the year started a massive series of wildfires just north of Los Angeles in what has already been California’s most destructive wildfire year.
The fires have been nearly unstoppable, raging unchecked over hillsides and through cities. Satellites images that have been trickling out show how much area the fires have already burned through, and what else could be in their path.
The Thomas Fire lit up first and has burned at least 65,000 acres as of Wednesday morning and is completely uncontained. At least 150 structures have been destroyed in the city of Ventura, though the official tally will likely rise considerably as a more thorough damage assessment is done.
The only thing big enough to halt the fire’s advance was the Pacific Ocean, which it reached on Tuesday night after jumping the 101 freeway. However, its fiery tentacles have fanned out along the coast and further inland with firefighters still fighting to get a handle on it.
The Rye and Creek fires also joined the mayhem starting Tuesday morning. The former has spread to 5,000 acres and is only five percent contained. The Creek Fire is burning right on the edge of Los Angeles’s city limits in the San Fernando Valley. A host of other, smaller wildfires, including one burning near the city’s famed Mulholland Drive, are stretching resources thin.
It’s pretty abnormal to have fires this intense in December as the state enters its wet season. But freakishly dry conditions the past few months and winds gusting to more than 50 mph have fanned flames. Extreme fire weather is expected to remain in place for at least the next week.
As firefighters struggle on the ground, satellites have been tracking the growing pattern of devastation from space. Pierre Markuse, a satellite image processor, shared a series images made using data captured by the European Space Agency Sentinel-2 and NASA Terra satellites. Check out some of his work below, which makes the widespread destruction painfully clear.