Tens Of Thousands Evacuated As Wildfire Grows In Southern California

"During the peak of the Santa Anas on Monday, there is the potential for damaging wind gusts of between 50-70 miles per hour across wind-prone areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with isolated gusts of 80 mph possible in the mountains, " the NWS Red Flag Advisory intoned.

The winds were pushing it toward Santa Paula, a city of some 30,000 people about 97km northwest of Los Angeles.

Audio will be available later today.

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". Soon after, the hospital was "razed to the ground" by the fire, according to a local news report. More than 27,000 people were evacuated and one firefighter suffered bumps and bruises in a vehicle accident in Ventura County. More than 800 homes were evacuated there.

"The fire growth is just absolutely exponential", Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. Thomas Aquinas College, which about 350 students attend, has also been evacuated.

Hundreds of firefighters were working through the night to try to prevent the fire from reaching Santa Paula and Ventura cities.

Sheriff's officials said two structures had burned, but it wasn't clear what they were.

"A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are expected", the weather service said.

"We've been here nearly 30 years we've gone through floods, gone through fires, it's just the wind, you don't know where it's going to go", added Chula Casas.

Southern California Edison said almost 180,000 customers in the Ventura county area were without service.

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