California Wildfires:

How are they affecting UK travellers?

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Soaring temperatures and gusting winds mean the California wild fires show no sign of stopping.  Despite the courageous efforts of firefighters, the fires continue to spread and are slowly encroaching on built up areas on the outskirts of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara with thousands of people being evacuated.  Officials in California have reported that, to date, the fires have scorched around 200,000 acres and destroyed 792 structures.  The biggest fire, the Thomas Fire, is responsible for most of the damage and is reported to be the biggest fire in the region since the Bel-Air fire of 1961 but is one of six fires in total so far.  Obviously, these terrible fires have meant disruption to travel in the area but how exactly are travellers from the UK likely to be affected?


California Wildfires


Picture Credit: LA Times

Air Travel

Although flights in and out of Los Angeles LAX airport have not been affected by the fires, travellers are advised to check with their airlines before travel as the powerful Santa Ana winds are spreading the fires rapidly.  Smaller Burbank Airport is nearer the fires but flights to and from there have yet to be affected.  The major concerns around these airports, particularly LAX, is getting to the airport in time for flights as road closures are extensive.


One of the region’s busiest highways, interstate 405, has had to close in both directions for a substantial length.  California’s longest highway US-101 is also affected by closures.  1-5 connectors to State Route 126 in Santa Clarita are closed, as are off-ramps on the interstate 210 freeway from La Tuna Canyon Road to interstate 5.  The California Department of Transportation suggest regularly checking for updates on roads as the fires move and more roads need to be closed.  Airlines are suggesting travellers leave far more time than usual to get to the airports in case of sudden road closures and other delays caused by the fires.


Rail travel has also been affected by the fires with trains stopping running on certain stretches.  The Pacific Surfliner train service which runs along the coast between San Diego and San Luis Obispo has been halted between Ventura and Santa Barbara and between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo.  Other delays and cancellations are expected as the fires spread.  Check local operators and news channels for updates if you’re planning on using the railways in these areas.

Air Quality

A major concern for anyone visiting the region is that the fires are making the air quality very poor and even hazardous in some areas.  Much of southern California is suffering from unhealthy air conditions and heavy smoke is drifting into the cities of Ventura, Oxnard and Santa Paula.  Greater Los Angeles is also affected but the area to really avoid is the Ojai Valley where the air quality is reported to be hazardous.

The main message coming from the California authorities is to keep checking the news and travel updates from airlines, train operators and the Department of Transportation for news on the roads for anyone travelling to or around southern California at the moment or in the near future.  As no rain is predicted for quite some time and the Thomas Fire, in particular, is proving very difficult to contain, the travel situation is likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future.  If you have travel insurance from ERV, you can use our information service for advice.


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