Ventura Wildfire Forces Tens of Thousands to Evacuate Overnight

By Kate Wheeling,

A brush fire that began early Monday evening near Santa Paula, California, has spread across 45,000 acres, destroying dozens of structures and forcing tens of thousands of Southern California residents to flee their homes.

Hundreds of firefighters were called in to combat the blaze, dubbed the Thomas Fire, which began at 6:25 p.m. near Santa Paula's Thomas Aquinas College. "The prospects for containment are not good," Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said in a late-night news briefing. The firefighters were up against 50 mph wind gusts that were fueling the fast-moving fire; at dawn, the Thomas Fire was still out of control. The strong winds and "very critical fire weather conditions" are likely to continue through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, which issued a warning Tuesday morning that the conditions could lead to "very rapid fire growth" and "extreme fire behavior."

No deaths have been reported, but at least 150 buildings, including one apartment complex, have burned and 27,000 residents were forced to evacuate. The blaze left hundreds of thousands without power overnight in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. As of Tuesday morning, the fire was still at 0 percent containment.

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