California wildfire: Thousands evacuated in Ventura County

By BBC

(BBC) – Some 27,000 residents were forced to flee their homes in the middle of the night as a fast-moving wildfire ripped through southern California.

Several thousand homes are under mandatory evacuation in the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula, some 70 miles (115 km) north of Los Angeles.

Firefighters warned the fire was moving so fast they were unable to contain it.

Fanned by high winds, the fire swept through 31,000 acres (12,500 hectares) in a matter of hours.

One person died in a traffic accident while trying to flee the fire and one firefighter was injured, officials say.

They also said 150 structures had been destroyed, and more than 260,000 people were without power.

Fairgrounds open for evacuees

Some 500 firefighters were working through the night to tackle the blaze, but fire chiefs admitted they were fighting a losing battle.

“The prospects for containment are not good. Really, Mother Nature is going to decide,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters.

Residents of Santa Paula and Ventura received mandatory evacuation notices via their phones and from emergency workers going house to house.

“My son is a firefighter and I’m not going to wait around for someone to rescue me,” June Byrum told CBS, saying her 91-year-old father, husband and dog had already left for a safe place.

The fire is believed to have broken out close to Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula at some time after 18:00 local time (02:00 GMT).

It was quickly fanned by gusts of up to 70mph (115 kph).

The college said that all its 350 students and staff had been evacuated.

California has been hit hard by wildfires in recent months.

At least 40 people were killed when fires ripped through parts of northern California’s wine region in October. Some 10,000 structures were destroyed.

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