California’s Wine Country has been steadily recovering from the devastating wildfires that ripped though and Napa and Sonoma valley area this past October.

Now, one of the wealthiest communities in the state and one if it’s cultural treasures are being threatened by new blazes that have broken out during the region’s infamous Santa Ana wind cycles.

The hills north of Los Angeles were burning Wednesday as the wildfires that have already devoured a large swath of Ventura County menaced the nation’s second-largest city.

With several multimillion-dollar mansions in the tony Bel-Air neighborhood already ablaze and flames threatening the Getty Center arts complex and its priceless collection, officials closed down part of Interstate 405 — a key north-south artery. All the while, firefighters rushed to contain the blaze.

…The massive blazes showed no signs of stopping as roaring winds fueled flames that feasted on the tinder-dry conditions in the region. And by midmorning, it had already consumed a half-dozen mansions and 150 acres of some of L.A.’s most expensive and desirable properties, The Los Angeles Times reported.

While helicopters bombarded the blaze from above with water drops, some 125 firefighters armed with chainsaws struggled to clear away the thick brush that was feeding the fire.

Police ordered an evacuation of all homes between two of the city’s most storied roadways — Mulholland Drive on the north and Sunset Boulevard on the south — as thick black smoke and swirling ash turned day into night.

The Ventura County blaze, known as the Thomas Fire, has expanded to 65,000 acres and still has zero percent containment as the blaze continues to rage Wednesday.

The blaze has destroyed at least 150 structures, and Cal Fire said 12,000 more are threatened.

The fire ignited Monday evening and has steadily increased in acreage, jumping the 101 Freeway near Solimar Beach Tuesday night and charring 70 square miles.

More than 7,000 homes in Ventura County were under mandatory evacuation as the blaze closed in on downtown Ventura, where multiple structures were reportedly burning. Fire officials said 27,000 people were evacuated from their residences.

Governor Jerry Brown has already declared a state of emergency.

“This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we’ll continue to attack it with all we’ve got,” the governor said in a statement. “It’s critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so.”

The declaration allows additional state resources to go toward fighting the fire. According to the declaration, the California National Guard will mobilize to support response and relief efforts.

Here is a satellite image to put the scale of the wildfire disaster in perspective:

For those keeping track, the fire around the Getty Museum has been designated the Skirball fire, after another cultural center that is adjacent to the iconic art center and near where the wildfire was initially reported at 5 am in the morning. Fortunately, Getty Museum was built with thick walls and enhanced fire doors as part if its design.

Smoke detection and sprinklers are ever-present along with pressurization systems to keep smoke out or reverse flow if it does get in.

The center has its own reservoir to supply suppression systems if necessary, and there’s an on-site helipad to fill helicopters with water. Hydrants throughout the extensive property are fed from a large-diameter loop.

The immediate zone around the building is kept green with fire-resistant plants, and the expansive acreage surrounding the campus is rigorously kept clear of grasses. Canopies of oak trees also serve to suppress the growth of vegetation that could feed a fire.

The Getty Center closed the day before the fire to prevent any harm to its collection from smoke from existing fires in Venturya.

However, art masterpieces are not the only treasures that are being rescued.

As a family’s mansion burned to the ground, all the homeowner wanted saved was a Christmas tree and a holiday wreath hanging on the door.

CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen reported live as the massive home came crashing down. He later showed the spot where firefighters pulled the tree filled with years of family ornaments, and the wreath to a safe spot near Via Ondulando in the Thomas Fire.

The homeowner told Nguyen he was on the phone with firefighters with little time to spare.

“If we could save just one thing, what would you want it to be?” the firefighter asked the homeowner.

“Please save my Christmas tree for my kids because it’s got so many memories,” the man desperately asked.

Meanwhile, in my hometown of San Diego, we are bracing for the Santa Ana. Tomorrow’s winds may gust up to 90 mph in some areas, and the humidity will be between 5 and 10 percent.

Please keep California in your prayers. While our Wine Country is well on the road to recovery, the less that burns in this new set of fires, the better for us all.

Some views from Southern California today:

And here is a look are the all the reported wildfires in the region:

Finally, the concern for California is natiowide:


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