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Pushed by powerful Santa Ana winds, a fire spread with explosive speed to 31,000 acres Monday night and early Tuesday in Southern California's Ventura County, forcing thousands to evacuate in the dark. He grew up in the county and didn't want to sit idly by as it burned.
Most of the children he spoke with told him about the Christmas toys they wanted, he said.
About 500 firefighters from several agencies are actively fighting the fire, according to Ventura County's emergency information website.
Lorenzen says more than 150 structures have burned.
Erik Nasarenko, a Ventura city councilman and former mayor, said he was at a council meeting Monday evening when the city manager told him his neighborhood was being evacuated. The shelter is also available for all types of animals and is located at 10 West Harbor Avenue in Ventura. TV reports showed homes in flames, along with Vista del Mar Hospital, which treats patients with mental problems or substance abuse, including veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Their main areas of concern were Ventura, Santa Paula and upper Ojai, fire officials said. In a news conference Tuesday morning, fire officials said the Thomas Fire had "exponential, huge growth" in the overnight hours. Homes were possibly threatened. One firefighter was injured while battling the blaze.
Tens Of Thousands Evacuated As Wildfire Grows In Southern California
Instead, Sonoma County issued text and email alerts only to people who had opted in, and issued "robo-call" warnings only to landlines in unincorporated parts of the county.
Nearly 180,000 customers in the Ventura county area were without power, Southern California Edison said on Twitter.
Shelters have been set up a local school and county fairgrounds for evacuees. "We saw the disasters and the losses that happened up north in Sonoma and this is a fast, very dangerous moving fire".
"The government does not really have authority over [those privately run services] to ensure that that redundancy and resiliency is put in place", he said. "If fire ignition occurs, there will be the potential for rapid spread of wildfire and extreme fire behavior that could lead to a threat to life and property".
Close to 1,000 firefighters were mobilized by Tuesday to fight the inferno which broke out Monday night near Highway 150 before spreading to the city of Santa Paula. The flames reached nearly 8 square miles just hours later. Thomas Aquinas College, with about 350 students, was evacuated.
Already, 27,000 people have been evacuated, and the dry conditions and high winds forecast through at least Thursday are expected to significantly expand the affected area.