Emergency Declared As Wildfires Rage Near Los Angeles; Thousands Flee

The fire in Ventura County to the west, known as the Thomas Fire, prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency after officials said 27,000 people were forced to evacuate and 45,500 acres and 150 buildings were destroyed

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Emergency Declared As Wildfires Rage Near Los Angeles; Thousands Flee

The fire in Ventura County to the west, known as the Thomas Fire prompted an emergency

VENTURA COUNTY, California:  Thousands of Californians north and west of Los Angeles fled their homes as two out-of-control wildfires spread rapidly overnight, fuelled by strong desert winds that hampered firefighters, officials said on Tuesday.

The fire in Ventura County to the west, known as the Thomas Fire, prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency after officials said 27,000 people were forced to evacuate and 45,500 acres and 150 buildings were destroyed.

"This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we'll continue to attack it with all we've got," Brown in issuing his emergency proclamation.

In the San Fernando Valley to the north, the so-called Creek Fire destroyed more than 4,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 2,500 homes and a convalescent centre north of Interstate 210. The highway remained open even as other roads were closed, officials said.

"We're chasing the fire, trying to get ahead of it, trying to get in front to provide structure defence," Los Angeles County Chief Deputy David Richardson told a briefing near the San Fernando Valley fire at the foothills of the Angeles National Forest.

Dry Santa Ana winds from the desert, which were forecast to top out at 70 miles per hour (115 km per hour) and remain strong through the week, intensified through the morning and limited the use of fire-fighting aircraft, Richardson said.

"Weather is going to dictate how and when we're going to utilize the aircraft," he said, adding that conditions made fire-fighting "extremely difficult."

One motorist was killed fleeing the blaze, a local ABC television affiliate reported. More than 250,000 homes lost power, a local power company said.

Due to the intensity of the fire, crews are having trouble making access and there are multiple reports of structures on fire," officials said on Ventura County's emergency management website.

More than 250,000 homes were without power, local utilities said. All schools in the Ventura Unified School District were closed.

The Thomas Fire was the largest of several large blazes that broke out across Southern California following the onset of the Santa Ana winds.

In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, the so-called Creek Fire had blackened more than 4,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 2,500 homes and a convalescent centre north of Interstate 210. The highway remained open even as other roads were closed, officials said.

"We're chasing the fire, trying to get ahead of it, trying to get in front to provide structure defence," Los Angeles County Chief Deputy David Richardson told reporters at an afternoon briefing as thick black smoke drifted across the city.

The Santa Ana winds, which blow in from the California desert, were forecast to top out at 70 miles per hour (115 km per hour) and remain strong through the week.

Los Angeles Fire Department Deputy Chief Trevor Richmond said firefighters had battled the blaze throughout the night.

"We're ordering additional resources as we speak," he told reporters. "They're en route to this location at this time."

The Creek Fire forced the closing of three schools while 11 schools and colleges were closed due to the Thomas Fire as winds pushed both blazes and their smoke toward the Pacific Ocean.

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