8,000 US homes evacuate on wildfire

AP
Ferocious winds in Southern California whipped up an explosive wildfire that prompted evacuation orders for about 8,000 homes, authorities said.
AP
Reuters

Smoke rises into the night sky as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 4, 2017.

Ferocious winds in Southern California whipped up an explosive wildfire that prompted evacuation orders for about 8,000 homes, authorities said.

The blaze broke out on Monday and grew wildly to more than 124 square kilometers in the hours that followed, consuming vegetation that had not burned in decades, said Ventura County Fire Sgt Eric Buschow.

At least 150 structures had been burning, fire officials said. There was no immediate word whether the structures were homes or businesses. More than 27,000 people have been evacuated and a firefighter was injured. There was no word on the extent of the injuries.

The winds were pushing the wildfire towards Santa Paula, a city of 30,000 people about 97 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles. Many of the evacuated homes were in that city.

However, evacuation orders were expanded to houses in Ventura, which is 19 kilometers southwest and has 106,000 residents.

“The fire growth is just absolutely exponential,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen. “All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people, and protect structures.”

Thomas Aquinas College, a school with about 350 students, had also been evacuated, with students going home or to those of faculty and staff, said the college.

One person was killed in an car accident associated with the fire, officials said. 

Winds exceeding 64kph and gusts over 100kph have been reported in the area.

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