Photos: Southern California’s “perfect fire storm”

Several uncontrolled fires are expected to worsen Thursday with the help of hurricane-force winds.

Several huge, fast-moving wildfires that have torched more than 100,000 acres — an area more than double the size of Washington, DC — in Southern California this week will worsen Thursday, threatening thousands of lives and homes.

According to the National Weather Service, hurricane-strength 80 mph winds are expected, resulting in an extreme “purple” level fire threat and possible damage. It’s reportedly the first time the agency has ever issued a purple warning in California.

“The sky is orange, you can smell the smoke, and you know people are losing their homes,” said University of California Los Angeles environmental scientist Glen MacDonald. “It really shows you our relative power to nature. We sometimes overestimate how much we can handle.”

The late-season fires are unusual but not unprecedented. MacDonald said several factors converged this year to create what he called the “perfect fire storm,” California’s worst fire season on record.

After years of drought, a wet winter nourished a bumper crop of grasses, shrubs, and trees throughout the state. Searing summer heat dried out this vegetation, with the Los Angeles region baking under record triple-digit temperatures as late as October. Over the long term, temperature and rainfall patterns are shifting due to climate change throughout California, but the south is getting it worse than the north.

Northern California suffered its own devastating fires in wine country last month, which incinerated 221,000 acres and killed more than 20 people.

For the Los Angeles region, it was only a matter of time before something set all the fuel ablaze. Now gusts reaching 80 mph from seasonal Santa Ana winds are spreading flames and sweeping embers over highways.

Multiple large fires are now simultaneously burning — the biggest are the Thomas Fire, Creek Fire, Rye Fire, and Skirball Fire. Here are a few of the most vivid images we’ve seen of the recent blazes and the fight to contain them.

Thomas Fire

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The Thomas Fire burns a hillside south of Casitas Springs, California, December 6.
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The Thomas Fire burns behind trails on Old Baldwin Road in Ojai, California, on December 6.
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The beach next to Ventura Pier is surrounded with smoke from the Thomas fire in Ventura, California, on December 6.

Creek Fire

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A burned classic car in Little Tujunga Canyon during the Creek Fire on December 6.
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Smoke from the Creek and Thomas fires drifts off hills on December 6 in Santa Clarita.

Rye Fire

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The Rye Fire burning northeast of Los Angeles slowly moves in the direction of Sherman Oaks, California, on December 5.

Skirball Fire

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Smoke from the Skirball Fire rises above the 405 freeway near Bel Air, California, on December 6.
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The bedroom of a home is engulfed in flames from the Skirball Fire along Linda Flora Drive in Bel Air, California, on December 6.
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Firefighters try to save home along Linda Flora Drive in Bel Air, California, on December 6.