Winds that fanned a deadly, destructive Southern California firestorm were fading Thursday and more areas were reopening to residents as firefighters extended containment lines around the vast burn scar.
“It’s the new abnormal: fires, dryness, lack of moisture, winds,” Gov. Jerry Brown said during a visit to a command post in Camarillo, where he also spoke about the transition from firefight to recovery.
“That recovery will happen,” he said. “The state will help. The federal government is helping. President Trump told me on the telephone yesterday that he’s completely behind California.”
Brown was joined on the visit by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
In addition, the White House announced that President Donald Trump will travel to California on Saturday and meet with fire survivors in Paradise, where at least 56 people were killed in a separate wildfire — the nation’s deadliest in a century.
Initially, as fires raged, Trump threatened to withhold federal payments from California, claiming its forest management was poor. He later said he had approved an expedited major disaster declaration and wanted to alleviate “incredible suffering.” He also praised firefighters.
Zinke said there was a threat of debris flows if rain hits the burn areas, and he promised to work with state and local officials to mitigate potential problems.
Zinke also said officials will play close attention to toxic sites that burned to make sure hazardous materials don’t get into the watershed.
The Interior secretary later toured the National Park Service’s Paramount Ranch, a historic film and television production location where the fire destroyed sets depicting an Old West town.
Elsewhere in the Southern California fire area, authorities allowed people back into more areas of coastal Malibu, which at one point was under a citywide evacuation order.
Despite the easing of powerful Santa Ana winds, conditions remained warm and extremely dry. Forecasters, however, predicted a return of moist ocean breezes and even low clouds and fog along the coast as normal fall temperatures return over the weekend.
The Woolsey fire was 57 percent contained after scorching more than 153 square miles (396 square kilometers) of suburbs, canyon communities and a huge swath of wilderness parklands in the rugged Santa Monica Mountains.
The count of destroyed structures in Los Angeles and Ventura counties topped 500 as damage assessments continued.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives were investigating three deaths. Two adults were found in a gutted car last week, and the remains of a person were found Wednesday in the rubble of a home that had burned to the ground.
A firefighter assigned to the fire was hit by a car and taken to a hospital. Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said it was not a serious injury.
Source: The Associated Press