Evacuations in California as wildfires flare out of control

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The Ventura County Fire Department said over 27,000 people had been told to evacuate their homes and the fast-moving fire in the coastal county north of Los Angeles had grown to 31,000 acres (12,545 hectares). Authorities initially reported one death, but then retracted that, saying a dead dog but no person was found in an overturned vehicle.

Ventura County officials said about 500 firefighters were now battling the blaze, known as the Thomas Fire, and more were being deployed. Lorenzen added that all firefighters can do at this stage is try and get ahead of the fire and protect structures.

"The fire growth is just absolutely exponential", Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.

Fire crews from Northern California were dispatched south, as Cal Fire moved 10 fire trucks and crews.to be pre-positioned to south of the Tehachapis.

Authorities have given evacuation notices to "well over 30,000" residents in the cities of Santa Paula and Ventura.

"The prospects for containment are not good".

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

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Ventura and Los Angeles, saying wind gusts between 50 and 70 miles per hour are likely through Thursday.

The fire also struck some key transmission lines, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers.

"I'm not going to wait around for someone to come rescue me so I'm outta here", said June Byrum.

Power company Southern California Edison tweeted that about 180,000 households were blacked out in and around Ventura County, with another 83,000 without power further north in Santa Barbara County, with no estimate of when service could be restored.

Four helicopters were making water drops to fight the fire but by 9:30 p.m. local time but were grounded after conditions were deemed unsafe for them to fly at night.