Hundreds flee California wildfire

California wildfire raging.
California wildfire raging.

LOS ANGELES — A wind-driven wildfire raging along the California coast north of Los Angeles prompted the evacuation of hundreds of homes and a university campus on Thursday as flames engulfed several farm buildings and recreational vehicles near threatened neighbourhoods.

A smaller blaze in Riverside County, 80 miles to the east, destroyed two houses and damaged two others before firefighters halted its spread, and at least five additional wildfires were burning in Northern California.

The outbreak of brush and wildfires marked a fierce start to a fire season in California that weather forecasters predict will be worsened by a summer of high temperatures and drought throughout much of the US West.

The largest of the blazes erupted about 6:30 a.m. beside the US 101 freeway, less than 10 miles inland from the Pacific coast, and quickly consumed 6,500 acres of dry, dense chaparral and brush near the communities of Camarillo and Newbury Park, about 50 miles north of Los Angeles.

Hot, dry Santa Ana winds fanned the so-called Springs Fire southward toward the ocean for much of the day, prompting authorities to close a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway. Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash said no injuries were reported.

News footage broadcast by KTLA-TV showed heavy smoke in the area and flames engulfing recreational vehicles parked near the evacuation zone. Later footage showed several farm sheds and other structures at the edge of an agricultural field going up in flames, apparently ignited by burning embers.

Fire department spokesman Tom McHale told KTLA that authorities were worried people could be exposed to toxic fumes that might be released from agricultural facilities. (Reuters)

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