Wildfires Burn Homes, Close Freeways in Southern California

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An unrelenting wildfire fanned by hot, dry Santa Ana winds threatened more than 12,000 homes in and around Ventura, California, on Wednesday, forcing thousands of people to race for safety.

The site allows first responders and the public to zoom in on their area and get updated information regarding fires, wind and surface fuel conditions.

Multnomah County is sending a strike team that will consist of two Gresham Fire engines and three Portland Fire engines, and a chief officer.

"As far as getting ahead of the fire, that's exactly what we're doing right now, but it's in defense of structure and property right now, not actually trying to put the fire out", he added.

Ventura County officials said about 500 firefighters were currently battling the blaze, known as the Thomas Fire, and more were being deployed. They gave no further details.

"Fixed wing aircraft and helicopters are expected to attack the fire at daybreak", the Ventura County website said.

The impact of the fire forced several events on Tuesday to be called off and events later in the week to be rescheduled.

The fires have spread so quickly and grown so large thanks to the California weather phenomenon known as the Santa Ana winds.

It was the worst of four fires that by late Tuesday had burned more than 66,000 acres in Southern California, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in Ventura County as Bay Area fire departments sent reinforcements south. One of those was the Vista del Mar Hospital, an 83-bed mental health facility at 801 Seneca St. All patients were evacuated safely, but the majority of buildings were left to be nothing but smoking husks.

Videos of that fire showed bright flames glowing ominously close to I-405 motorists early Wednesday.

Officials issued another mandatory evacuation just before 11:30 p.m., Tuesday for beach communities along the 101 Freeway from Highway 33 to Bates Road in Ventura County.

The Dos Pueblos boys soccer team had its home game against Moorpark cancelled as did the Santa Barbara High's girls soccer team's game against Chaminade at La Playa Stadium.

"This is just devastating", he said.

More than 250,000 homes were without power, utilities said.

The fires spewed so much smoke that they were captured in a NASA image from space.

"I will say it because I'm a Christian: Everything burned but the cross, not even the grass or nothing", he told anyone who would listen.

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 3, there were 6,762 fires that destroyed 505,391 acres.

One of many structors in flamses after an early-morning major alarm brush fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area above Sylmar Tuesday.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Ventura and Los Angeles, saying wind gusts between 50 and 70 miles per hour are likely through Thursday.