Crews Work to Evacuate 15-20 Homeless Encampments as Whittier Fire Burns

As multiple brush fires burn in Southern California amid punishing winds and dry heat, a fire began burning in Whittier Wednesday, as firefighters worked to stop flames from engulfing homeless encampments.

The fire began burning at 4 p.m. in the Whittier Narrows area at 555 Durfee Ave. consuming some 3 acres, with 10 mph winds and a heavy fuel source.

Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said they were evacuating 15-20 homeless encampments. 

No structures were threatened, but the fire began swallowing brush near homeless encampments, as fire crews worked to save their belongings. 

Shortly after it began burning, fire officials said they had a handle on the fire, and had stopped forward progress. 

It was 50% contained by 6 p.m., officials said. 

Multiple fires were burning in the region, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. See updates here

The strongest Santa Ana winds of the season, possibly in the last decade, thrashed the region Wednesday. The winds, produced by surface high pressure over the Great Basin squeezing air down through canyons and passes in Southern California's mountain ranges, are common in the fall and have a long history of fanning destructive wildfires in the region.

Fall is historically one of the most dangerous times of the year for wildfires in California. Seven of the state's 10-most destructive wildfires occurred in October -- many fueled by monster winds, including Santa Ana gusts. 

Through Oct. 27, more than 5,000 wildfires have been reported in California, according to CALFIRE figures. The fires have burned more than 74,000 acres.

About the same number of fires burned at the same time last year, but burned acreage was at an astounding 632,000 due to some of the worst wildfires in state history. 

California's five-year average for the same period is 6,190 fires and 198,300 acres.

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