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Thousands flee out of control wildfire north of Los Angeles burning at 'a football field a second'

  • A rapidly growing wildfire in the foothills north of Los Angeles has burned 150 structures, officials said Tuesday.
  • 27,000 residents from over 8,000 households in Ventura County, California, were told to flee the 45,000-acre wildfire, known as the Thomas Fire.
  • Strong winds pushed the fire into the cities of Santa Paula and Ventura, where about 140,000 people live, the Ventura County officials said.

A rapidly growing wildfire in the foothills north of Los Angeles threatened thousands of homes on Monday and forced nearby residents and students at a small college to evacuate, officials said.

At least 27,000 residents from some 8,000 households in Ventura County, California, about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles, were told to leave as the 45,000-acre wildfire, known as the Thomas Fire, burned dry brush, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said Tuesday.

"We're going to be faced with basically the same challenges we had yesterday," Lorenzen told press. "We have extremely high winds, very very low relative humidities, and our fuel conditions out there are absolutely as bad as they could be for fire spread."

The Ventura County Fire Department tweeted a photo of a fire perimeter map Tuesday morning, saying it was the "most up to date" representation of the current burn area.

The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore tweeted that the fire map indicates it is burning "roughly a football field a second."

"We're really just trying to catch it around the edges and just pinching it off as quickly as we possibly can," Ventura County firefighter Jason Hodge told the Los Angeles Times.

NBCLA reporter Rick Montanez tweeted a video Tuesday morning of an apartment complex burning, saying "this fire is still out of control!"

There have been no deaths reported. Local news sources erroneously attributed a traffic-related fatality to the fire in earlier reports.

About 1000 firefighters are on the scene, and at least 150 structures have been destroyed, although that figure is expected to rise.

"We're going to be able to have air resources up. We should see a number of air tankers and helicopters flying" on Tuesday, Lorenzen said.

Strong winds pushed the fire into the cities of Santa Paula and Ventura, where about 140,000 people live, the Ventura County officials said.

The fire was stoked by wind gusts of up to 70 mph that were expected to remain in the area along with low humidity through the week, the National Weather Service forecast.

"We're very concerned about the wind popping up today from the west and it's going to be a challenge," Lorenzen added.

The 390 students at Thomas Aquinas College were evacuated as a precaution, the school said on Twitter.

Evacuation centers were opened at a high school and the county fairgrounds, media reported.

Separate "Creek Fire" burns east of Ventura

Another uncontrolled fire is burning in the neighborhoods Sylmar and Tujunga, KNBC reported. East of Ventura and just north of Burbank, the "Creek Fire" has forced 2,500 to evacuate. Fire officials do not yet know how many homes were burned.

No injuries have been reported, according to NBCLA, and the cause of the fire remains unknown.