A rapidly growing fire has forced thousands to evacuate from Southern California’s Ventura County after destroying dozens of buildings and ripping through power lines, CNN reports.
According to the county sheriff’s office, the fire began north of Santa Paula on Monday evening and has since made its way to Ventura on the Pacific coast. By Tuesday (December 5), it had reportedly scorched through 31,000 acres of land (more than twice the size of Manhattan, as CNN notes) in just nine hours.
“The fire is still out of control and structures are threatened throughout the fire area,” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said via Ready Ventura County, a local emergency website. “Due to the intensity of the fire, crews are having trouble making access, but there are multiple reports of structures on fire.”
A total of 150 buildings have been destroyed so far, with more than 7,700 homes in Ventura and Santa Paula under mandatory evacuation. Officials have warned that powerful winds could potentially move flames farther into Ventura.
On October 8, one of the deadliest wildfires in state’s history began ravaging Northern California, leaving at least 17 people dead. By October 10, more than 20,000 people were forced to evacuate as powerful wind gusts and an absence of rain created challenges for firefighters. Others were strongly encouraged to pack bags in preparation in case of emergency.
“I think it would be one of the worst disasters in California history,” California Highway Patrol Captain Mike Palacio reportedly said at a community meeting. “You gotta be patient. We are just trying to keep people alive.”
By October 14, the fire had burned over 210,000 acres. At least 42 people were killed, making October’s event the largest cause of death by wildfire in the United States since 1918’s Cloquet Fire in Minnesota.