Thousands evacuated as #ThomasFire blazes across southern California (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)


The red flag fire warning prompted by gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity levels remained in effect Tuesday for much of San Diego County as a wildfire driven by similar conditions tore through Ventura County north of Los Angeles.

"This will likely be the strongest and longest duration santa ana wind event we have seen so far this season", the weather service said.

Audio will be available later today. It grew to more than 100 sq km (40 sq miles) by the early hours of Tuesday, consuming vegetation that has not burned in decades, the Ventura county fire sergeant Eric Buschow said.

The blaze broke out on Monday evening east of Santa Paula, which is about 60 miles north-west of Los Angeles.

Massive fire burns out of control in Southern CaliforniaA smaller fire erupted on the northern edge of Los Angeles, threatening the Sylmar and Lakeview Terrace neighborhoods, where residents scrambled to get out.

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The fire chief said one death had been reported. Most of the evacuated homes were in that city.

The fire burned 31,000 acres in the first nine hours.

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.

Thomas Aquinas college, which has 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.

"It's always hard and somewhat risky to fly at night, so depending on different conditions and the geographic challenges is how they evaluate whether or not they can operate at night", Ventura County firefighter Jason Hodge told the Los Angeles Times.