firefighters spray water on wildfire

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Wind speeds reach ‘uncharted levels’: Southern California has felt yellow wind, orange wind, and red wind. But never purple wind. Until now. The color-coded system showing the expected strength of the winds driving the region’s fierce wildfires has reached uncharted territory, pushing past red, which means “high,” into the color that means “extreme.” READ MORE

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

The worst may come today: The largest and most destructive wildfire in Southern California has grown to 140 square miles and fire officials say the worst may be yet to come. The 90,000-acre fire burning in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles has swept through ridges and canyons to the sea, and Santa Ana winds that drove it are expected to return with a vengeance. READ MORE

Freeway, exclusive neighborhoods threatened: California motorists commuted past a blazing inferno Wednesday as wind-whipped wildfires raged across the Los Angeles region, with flames triggering the closure of a major freeway and mandatory evacuations in an area dotted with mansions. One day after the “Thomas” fire broke out — devastating 65,000 acres (26,300 hectares) and forcing 27,000 people to flee — high winds caused another wave of wildfires to erupt overnight, including one in Los Angeles’ affluent Bel-Air neighborhood that gridlocked heavy traffic as ash and smoke churned over the smoldering hillside. READ MORE

Thirty horses are victims: Amid the charred landscape of Little Tujunga Canyon Road in Sylmar, Calif., on Wednesday stood the remains of Rancho Padilla and the carcasses of nearly 30 horses who died in the fast-moving Creek fire. The Padilla family was there Wednesday morning, surveying the smoldering ranch that their father built more than 20 years ago. They somberly counted up the dead horses, whose charred bodies lined dozens of stalls. READ MORE

Exotic animal sanctuary threatened: The Creek fire also left Wildlife Waystation staffers working in the dark with lions, chimpanzees and bison. Wildlife Waystation is a sanctuary for wild and exotic animals. In preparation for evacuation, staff members separated the different types of caging, some suitable for hyenas, others for Siberian tigers, another suitable for a chimpanzee. They had to figure out what to do about the buffalo roaming loose in the fire zone, as well as what they’d do with animals with small lungs — like birds — who wouldn’t be able to survive the smoke. READ MORE

TERRORISM

ISIS threatens New Year’s Day attack: ISIS has threatened an attack on Paris on New Year’s Day in yet another digitally created propaganda poster. The image shows crowds of people in front of the Arc de Triomphe, and the photograph is overlaid with a carving knife dripping with blood. A caption on the poster, shared by terrorist supporters on social media, warns: “We will make New Year’s Day hell.” READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

Newspaper publisher says he was poisoned: Joseph Soldwedel, a co-owner of the Prescott, Ariz., Daily Courier newspaper, says he was poisoned with thallium, a tasteless, odorless heavy metal formerly used in rat poison.  The Courier reported lab results indicated that between Nov. 29 and Dec. 27, 2016, thallium levels in Soldwedel’s body were 15 times higher than that of an average person. A forensic toxicologist working with Soldwedel told another newspaper that his client had “elevated levels” of the chemical in his system and noted that its existence couldn’t be explained by environmental issues. Soldwedel’s water was tested and came back clean, and his career in the media industry doesn’t lend itself to accidental poisoning. READ MORE