The southern California wildfires that destroyed more than 800 homes and forced 50,000 people to evacuate since last Thursday continue to rage through the region. Firefighters will need at least several more days to get them under control.
The 800-plus houses, apartments and mobile homes were destroyed in four counties, according to the Associated Press. High winds up to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour are driving the fires, which have scorched an estimated 41,000 acres (64 square miles), the AP says.
The fires could be controlled by midweek. "If we were being very optimistic, we would be looking at the middle of the week," Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Dennis Cross told CNN.
Some of the 50,000 evacuees are making their way back home today after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared states of emergency for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties over the weekend. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, Reuters says.
"With all these fires all over, this is usually what happens at this time of the year, when we have the perfect storm, which means basically we have high winds, high temperatures and very, very dry," Schwarzenegger said.
Southern California wildfires started earlier than usual this year, in April. The season traditionally begins in June and lasts until November, but experts say that season is becoming never ending. Climate change, including droughts, high temperatures and Santa Ana desert winds, is partly to blame. "Fire season is becoming a 12-month affair here," Carroll Wills, a spokesman for the California Professional Firefighters union, told Reuters in May.
Sunset during June 2008 California wildfires by karmafiend via Flickr