5 December 2017

California declares state of emergency over massive wildfire

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Tuesday as whipping Santa Ana winds continued to stoke a wildfire that has already scorched 70 square miles near north Los Angeles.

The ravenous fire began in the brush and scrubs outside the city of Ventura on Monday, but within hours, hot embers whipped up by the extremely dry, powerful winds were carried into the enclave of 100,000 residents.

The fire destroyed dozens of buildings in Ventura, including an adolescent psychiatric hospital with 80 patients, and thousands were forced to evacuate. Sheriff’s deputies knocked on doors throughout the night to warn residents to evacuate.

“This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we’ll continue to attack it with all we’ve got,” Brown said. “It’s critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so.”

Wind gusts sometimes exceeding 60 mph complicated the effort, said Rich Macklin, spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department.

“I personally have never seen structures destroyed in Ventura County like this,” Macklin said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep in front of this thing.”