Thousands flee fast-moving California fire

  • 06/12/2017
Smoke rises into the night sky as strong winds push the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres near Santa Paula, California, U.S., December 4, 2017. Picture taken December 4, 2017. REUTERS/David McNew - RC14BF88F5E0
Photo credit: Reuters

A fast-moving wildfire has prompted evacuation orders for nearly 8000 homes in southern California, which has killed one person in a related road accident.

The blaze broke out on Monday and quickly burned 4,000 hectares in hours, Ventura County Fire Sergeant Eric Buschow said.

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

Evacuation orders were expanded to include houses in Ventura, which is 19km southwest and has 106,000 residents.

"The fire growth is just absolutely exponential," Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. "All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people, and protect structures."

One person was killed in a road accident associated with the fire but they gave no further details.

At least two structures have burned so far, officials said.

Thomas Aquinas College, a school with about 350 students, has also been evacuated, with students going to their own homes or to those of faculty and staff, the college said in a statement.

Nearly 180,000 customers in the Ventura county area were without power, Southern California Edison said on Twitter.