Medical officials confirmed the first fire-related fatality in Southern California’s most recent spate of wildfires to HuffPost on Saturday.
Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula was found in a car that had crashed along an evacuation route in Ventura County ― north of Los Angeles ― on Wednesday night, a representative for the county medical examiner’s office said. Her cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma along with terminal smoke inhalation and heat-related injuries.
The blaze devouring Ventura County, known as the Thomas fire, is currently the largest out of several wildfires raging in the region, burning through over 148,000 acres so far and requiring use of 575 fire engines to help contain it.
Evacuation orders were lifted for portions of the area on Saturday, however, as the blaze reached 15 percent containment. More than 530 structures have been destroyed and 118 damaged.
High winds and low humidity have sparked at least five other, smaller fires across Southern California this week that have continued to burn into the weekend. Shifting breezes have made it difficult to predict the direction of the blazes, which have produced images of apocalyptic landscapes torn apart by flames.
Firefighters continue to make progress. The Los Angeles Police Department announced Saturday afternoon that two of the region’s other blazes, the Creek and Skirball fires, were contained at 80 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
This has been one of the worst years for California wildfires on record, with more than twice as many acres burned so far in 2017 than in 2016.
More than 40 people lost their lives in October during a series of Northern California wildfires that are now the state’s deadliest in its history.