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Wildfires Burn Homes, Close Freeways in Southern California

07 December 2017

The report said fire that has ravaged Ventura County continued to burn out of control yesterday, reaching the Pacific Ocean unchecked as officials warned many more homes have been lost.

In the hours before sunrise, wildfire embers fueled by strong Santa Ana winds shot up into the air above traffic, creating a fiery hellscape that heated drivers' windows and temporarily shut down the interstate.

Across the wide I-405 freeway from the fire, the Getty Center art complex was closed to protect its collection from smoke damage.

The unrelenting blaze has destroyed more than 12,000 homes in and around the coastal city of Ventura, forcing thousands of people to race for safety.

Over 1,000 firefighters battled to save homes, with one suffering a minor injury, he added.

"We're basically in an urban firefight in Ventura, where if you can keep that house from burning, you might be able to slow the fire down", said Tim Chavez, a fire behavior specialist at the blaze.

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As neighborhoods turned into scenes of vast ruin and freeways closed down, California got a frightening replay of the October infernos in Wine Country that killed 44 people, destroyed 8,900 structures and, like the Thomas Fire, were driven by nighttime windstorms that blasted flames from more rugged areas into communities built along the edge of the wildland.

In issuing his emergency proclamation to secure state and federal disaster resources, Brown cited the destruction, the threats to critical infrastructure and the high winds.

Wild winds could easily send make new fires explode too, as one did Wednesday in Los Angeles' exclusive Bel-Air section, where a fire consumed multimillion-dollar houses that give the rich and famous sweeping views of Los Angeles.

"The public did an outstanding job heeding our evacuation orders, getting out of these danger zones in a very prompt timely manner", Welsbie said.

Tuesday, Southern California Edison tried to downplay the possibility its equipment may have sparked the fires.

The fire, which was zero percent contained, was being whipped by unpredictable Santa Ana winds, which blow in from the California desert.

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According to the National Weather Service, the wildfires are expected to exacerbate overnight, as winds reach speeds of 65 miles per hour.

The Skirball Fire - named after the Skirball Cultural Center in northern Los Angeles - burned 475 acres in the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Center, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Fred Mariscal said Red Cross officials expect about 400 people at the shelter Tuesday night.

According to Ventura County Fire Sergeant Eric Buschow the blaze started about 6:25 p.m. Monday in the foothills near Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, a popular hiking destination. The Thomas fire is by far the biggest and most widespread of them, having reportedly burnt up more than 60,000 acres of land.

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Wildfires Burn Homes, Close Freeways in Southern California