Thousands flee massive Southern California wildfire

Thousands flee massive Southern California wildfire

More than 27,000 people were evacuated overnight Tuesday after a massive wildfire stoked by high winds and feeding on tinder-dry conditions roared through a Southern California county just north of Los Angeles.

No fatalities were reported from the blaze, dubbed the Thomas Fire, which has already devoured more than 45,500 acres and reduced some 150 homes and businesses in Ventura County to ashes.

“We had a very rough night,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. “We were leap-frogging along, protecting structures.”

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One firefighter was injured in the effort, but his condition was not disclosed.

The Ventura County Fire Department tweeted that residents should expect the blaze to increase as powerful Santa Ana winds, which carry hot, extremely dry air from inland, gust from 40 to 60 mph.

The flames were marching ever closer to the cities of Santa Paula and Ventura, which have a combined population of about 140,000, Lorenzen said.

About 20 million people in the region could be at risk from the fire, said “TODAY” weather anchor Al Roker.

Thomas Aquinas College, which is within the affected area, evacuated its students as a precaution, reported NBC Los Angeles.

The inferno erupted Monday night east of Santa Paula, which is about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

What sparked the blaze is not known, but officials said the ongoing drought has left the area “ripe for fire spreading,”

The 500 or so firefighters battling the blaze were reinforced by more than 100 deputies, Sgt. Kevin Donoghue of the Ventura County Sheriff’s office said.

Thousands flee massive Southern California wildfire

Fixed-wing aircrafts and helicopters attacked the blaze from the sky, dropping water and fire retardant.

Southern California Edison said nearly 180,000 customers in the Ventura County area were without service, according to The Associated Press.

While some residents reported being trapped on social media, Ventura County spokesman Bill Nash said officials on the ground were unable to confirm the reports.

Mary Greeley News