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Fast-Moving Wildfire Destroys Hundreds of Homes Across Southern California and Forcing 27,000 into Evacuation

Flames from a 45,500-acre-wildfire have been spreading randomly from strong winds leaving some homes burned to the ground and other homes untouched.

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Live video feed from the brush fire that erupted in Ventura County, 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles, on Monday, showed houses completely consumed by flames sitting next to houses that were left unscathed.

The Ventura County Fire Department warned residents early on Tuesday that powerful Santa Ana winds – which carry hot and extremely dry air from inland, and gust from 40mph to 60mph – would increase the blaze’s destruction.

The inferno, known as the Thomas Fire, has forced 27,000 residents to evacuate and hundreds of homes are expected to be consumed before the fire is brought under control.

In the first 10 hours, the fire grew from 50 acres to 31,000 acres at a burn rate of approximately one acre per second.

More than 260,000 residents have been without power and 150 structures have so far been destroyed during the blaze, which is at zero percent containment.

Before dawn on Tuesday, officials issued an update that the fire was ‘out of control’.

About 500 firefighters are battling the blaze and fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were prepared to launch on Tuesday morning.

Among the buildings destroyed were the Hawaiian Village apartment complex and the Vista del Mar behavioral health care center, with everyone managing to get out safely.

Fire officials said that because of intensity of the fire and the high winds, the blaze is pretty much unstoppable.
‘The prospects for containment are not good,’ Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said at a news conference, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. ‘Really, Mother Nature is going to decide.’

Local resident Melissa Grisales told ABC 7 in Los Angeles: ‘We got my kids out first. Pretty scary, really. I didn’t think it was going to come to that, but I am starting to get pretty concerned.’

Ventura County fire officials originally reported on Monday that a motorist had been killed as thousands of households rushed to escape the flames.

However, around 6am on Tuesday, authorities said no fatalities were confirmed. One firefighter was hit by a car while he was battling the flames and is currently at the hospital being evaluated.

Photographs from the scene showed burned out cars at the side of the road and the remaining frames of houses, stores and apartment complexes as the fire spread.

Daybreak saw residents and police officers alike walking through heavy plumes of smoke as firefighters continued to battle the inferno.

Strong winds pushed the fire to the cities of Santa Paula and Ventura, where about 140,000 people live, Ventura County officials said.

Ventura County firefighter Jason Hodge told the Los Angeles Times: ‘We’re really just trying to catch it around the edges and just pinching it off as quickly as we possibly can.’

The fire was stoked by wind gusts of up to 70mph (115kph) that were expected to remain in the area along with low humidity through the week, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

About 390 students at Thomas Aquinas College were evacuated as a precaution, the school said on Twitter, and evacuation centers were opened at a high school and the county fairgrounds.

Officials with SoCal Edison advised that residents should be prepared to be without power for days as crews worked to restore fire-ravaged lines.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

California has been hit hard this year by fires. In October, more than a dozen wildfires broke out in Northern California’s wine country, killing 40 people. A separate one quickly grew in Anaheim Hills, burning through thousands of acres.

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