Ferocious winds in Southern California have whipped up an explosive wildfire, doubling its size, forcing the evacuation of thousands of homes and knocking out power to thousands more. Authorities initially reported one death, but then retracted that, saying a dead dog but no person was found in an overturned vehicle.
Still, the fire authority was able to send a five-engine strike team with 22 firefighters and several helicopters to Ventura's Thomas Fire, which started Monday evening near Santa Paula and grew rapidly overnight.
A woman evacuates her home as the fire burns in Santa Paula on December 5. Numerous evacuated homes were in that city.
"This will likely be the strongest and longest duration santa ana wind event we have seen so far this season", the weather service said. More than 27,000 people were evacuated and one firefighter suffered bumps and bruises in a vehicle accident in Ventura County.
The gusty conditions are expected to shift toward Southern California on Monday and last through Thursday, with some areas of Ventura and Los Angeles counties possibly experiencing isolated gusts as high as 80 miles per hour.
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The National Weather Service said winds of 43 miles per hour with gusts over 60 miles per hour were reported in the area and were expected to continue.
A fast moving wildfire engulfed an estimated 25,000 acres in less than seven hours in Southern California's Santa Barbara and Ventura counties on December 5.
"The fire is still out of control and structures continue to be threatened throughout the fire area", county emergency officials said in statement.
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