LOS ANGELES (Dispatches) -- Four wildfires roared through Southern California, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and destroying hundreds of homes and other buildings in the latest chapter of what has been one of the state’s worst fire seasons.
The first fire, in Ventura County, started Monday evening and was still "out of control”, the authorities said. Named the Thomas Fire, it began north of Santa Paula, Calif., and spread rapidly to envelop at least 50,000 acres, destroying hundreds of structures and prompting 27,000 people to evacuate, including some from the city of Ventura.
Three more fires began on Tuesday. One in Los Angeles County quickly grew to encompass more than 11,000 acres and destroyed more than 30 structures. Another, in San Bernardino County, injured three people as it burned 100 acres of vegetation. And a fourth, near Santa Clarita, tore through at least 5,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of a trailer park and several schools.
The exact causes of the fires were not immediately known.
The authorities said the fires were fed by dry conditions and fierce winds. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Ventura County, where he said the flames had destroyed hundreds of homes.
California has seen some of its most destructive fires ever this year. In October, even as more than a dozen fires broke out in the northern part of the state, a separate one quickly grew in the Anaheim Hills, burning through thousands of acres. The fires have collectively killed more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.
A month earlier, the La Tuna Fire sent smoke billowing into the air above Los Angeles as the hills glowed red. In terms acreage, that fire was the largest to tear through the city in 50 years.
Eric Buschow, a sergeant with the sheriff’s office, said that the fire in Ventura County, which was fueled by the Santa Ana winds, was one of the worst he had seen, partly because of the number of homes that were affected.
At least 186,000 people were without power in Ventura County, many of them in the affected area. The power failures made it difficult for the 1,100 firefighters working there to battle the flames.