One dead as thousands flee southern California wildfire

1 Dead, Thousands Evacuated from Calif. Wildfire

One person died in a vehicle crash trying to evacuate the fire that first broke out Monday night.

Photo Downtown Santa Paula, Calif., was darkened by a power outage Tuesday morning, as smoke from the Thomas Fire rose in the distance. Authorities initially reported one death, but then retracted that, saying a dead dog but no person was found in an overturned auto. But the Santa Ana winds could persist into Friday or Saturday, which would likely mean an extension of both warnings. It reached the northern edge of Ventura, a city with a population of more than 100,000, by 2 a.m.

"The fire growth is just absolutely exponential", Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen was quoted by ABC News as saying. Lorenzen added that all firefighters can do at this stage is try and get ahead of the fire and protect structures.

"The prospects for containment are not good". "Really mother nature is going to decide when we have the ability to put it out because it is pushing hard".

Winds exceeding 40mph and gusts of more than 60mph have been reported in the area and were expected to continue, the National Weather Service said.

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Two buildings have been destroyed and thousands of homes are without power, according to reports.

Authorities in Ventura County, on the Pacific Coast just north of Los Angeles, declared an emergency and said they planned to use fixed wing aircraft and helicopters against the "fast moving, active brush fire". The fire erupted near Santa Paula, a city of some 30,000 people about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.

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.

Shelters have been set up a local school and county fairgrounds for evacuees.

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