Wildfires near Los Angeles force thousands to evacuate; one dead

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. (Reuters) – Two wind-fueled wildfires north and west of Los Angeles have caused at least one death, forced the evacuations of thousands of people and triggered widespread power outages, officials said on Tuesday.

Firefighters battle flames from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula, California, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

An overnight fire, known as the Creek Fire, consumed at least 2,500 acres in the foothills of Angeles National Forest north, forcing residents of some nearby San Fernando Valley communities north of Los Angeles to flee, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

Separately, some 27,000 people in Ventura County, about 70 miles (115 km) northwest of Los Angeles, were told to leave as a 31,000-acre wildfire, known as the Thomas Fire, burned dry brush after erupting on Monday evening, Ventura County officials said on Twitter.

Officials said the Thomas Fire destroyed at least 150 buildings.

One motorist was killed fleeing the blaze, a local ABC television affiliate reported. More than 250,000 homes lost power and at least two structures were destroyed, a local power company said on Twitter.

“We got my kids out first,” Melissa Grisales told ABC 7 in Los Angeles. “Pretty scary, really. I didn’t think it was going to come to that, but I am starting to get pretty concerned.”

Embers blow from burned trees as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew

About 500 firefighters battled the fire that destroyed multiple structures, officials said on the Ventura County website. Another 210 firefighters from the Los Angeles Fire Department joined in the coordinated effort to battle the Creek Fire, the department said.

Strong eastern winds pushed the fire toward the cities of Santa Paula and Ventura, where about 140,000 people live, county officials said.

“We’re really just trying to catch it around the edges and just pinching it off as quickly as we possibly can,” Ventura County firefighter Jason Hodge told the Los Angeles Times.

The fire was stoked by Santa Ana wind gusts blowing out of the desert to the east that were expected reach 70 miles per hour (115 km per hour) and remain strong through the week as well as by low humidity, the National Weather Service forecast.

About 390 students at Thomas Aquinas College were evacuated as a precaution, the school…

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