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Firefighters work to save a home from an encroaching fire during the Lilac fire in Bonsall on December 7.
SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images

Photos: Southern California is burning

Six major fires are still burning, including a new one that broke out Thursday in San Diego County.

Several huge, fast-moving wildfires have torched nearly 159,000 acres in Southern California this week and are expected to continue burn fiercely until at least Saturday. The newest one, the Lilac Fire, erupted in San Diego County on Thursday, burning 4,100 acres in just a short time.

“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, which are affecting several high population areas including the cities of Los Angeles, San Bernadino, and Ventura, 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. The fires also got an assist from the Santa Ana winds, which were especially strong this week. The National Weather Service on Wednesday activated the most extreme “purple” level fire threat. It’s reportedly the first time the agency has ever issued a purple warning in California.

Six large fires are now burning — the biggest are the Thomas Fire, Creek Fire, Rye Fire, Skirball Fire, and Lilac 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 (Ventura County)

Shane Winton sprays water on a friend’s property as the Thomas Fire approaches La Conchita early Thursday morning.
Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The Thomas Fire burns behind trails on Old Baldwin Road in Ojai, California, on December 6.
AFP/Getty Images
The beach next to Ventura Pier is surrounded with smoke from the Thomas fire in Ventura, California, on December 6.
Getty Images

Creek Fire (Los Angeles County)

A burned classic car in Little Tujunga Canyon during the Creek Fire on December 6.
Getty Images
Smoke from the Creek and Thomas fires drifts off hills on December 6 in Santa Clarita.
Getty Images
A resident hoses a burning palm tree during the Creek Fire on December 5 in Sunland.
David McNew/Getty Images

Rye Fire (Los Angeles County)

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

Skirball Fire (Los Angeles County)

Members of Crew 3 head up a hill behind a home to do mop up work from the Skirball fire along Moraga Drive in Bel Air on December 7.
Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Firefighter Bobby D'Amico looks out over the Getty Center in Bel-Air, where the Skirball fire destroyed homes on December 7.
Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Smoke from the Skirball Fire rises above the 405 freeway near Bel Air, California, on December 6.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
The bedroom of a home is engulfed in flames from the Skirball Fire along Linda Flora Drive in Bel Air, California, on December 6.
Genaro Molina/LA Times via Getty Images
Firefighters try to save home along Linda Flora Drive in Bel Air, California, on December 6.
Genaro Molina/LA Times via Getty Images

Lilac Fire (San Diego County)

A structure burns at the Lilac Fire in the early morning hours of December 8 near Bonsall.
David McNew/Getty Images
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