Published: Wed, December 06, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

California wildfire: Thousands evacuated in Ventura County

California wildfire: Thousands evacuated in Ventura County

Almost 8,000 homes have been evacuated in southern California after ferocious winds whipped up an explosive wildfire that could soon threaten a city of more than 100,000.

The blaze broke out on Monday in area of about 50 acres, but strong winds have fueled the fire which has spread fast, forcing people from their homes and causing widespread power outages. About 2,500 homes were ordered evacuated.

The fire is another devastating blow for the state, which is still struggling to recover from catastrophic wildfires in Northern California's wine country in October. TV reports showed homes in flames, along with Vista del Mar Hospital, which treats patients with mental problems or substance abuse, including veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Authorities initially reported one death, but then retracted that, saying a dead dog but no person was found in an overturned auto. Lorenzen added that all firefighters can do at this stage is try and get ahead of the fire and protect structures.

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Four helicopters were making water drops to fight the fire but by 9:30 p.m. local time but were grounded after conditions were deemed unsafe for them to fly at night. Numerous evacuated homes were in that city.

"The fire growth is just absolutely exponential", said Ventura county Fire Chief Mark Lorenzon.

Thomas Aquinas College, a school with about 350 students, has also been evacuated, with students going to their own homes or to those of faculty and staff, the college said in a statement.

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High winds initially pushed the brush fire, known as the Thomas Fire, towards Santa Paula, a city of around 30,000 residents about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The Southern California Edison utility company said 180,000 customers in Ventura County and 83,000 in Santa Barbara County were without power.

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