Southern California residents evacuate as fast-moving wildfire rages

Thousands of southern California residents were forced to flee their homes as a rapidly moving wildfire destroyed hundreds of houses in and around Ventura, California.

The fire, called the Thomas Fire, started as a 50-acre bushfire on Monday night in the foothills of Santa Paula near Ventura, and was quickly driven into the city by strong winds. The blaze continued uncontained by Tuesday morning, and by then it had affected over 50,000 acres of land.

The blaze affected structures in downtown Ventura, with a number of homes catching fire near the city hall. Over 150 structures have been destroyed by the fire, including a 60-unit apartment complex. While the fire continues to blaze, more than 3,000 other structures are currently being threatened.

The fast movement of the Thomas Fire was finally halted when it reached the Pacific Ocean. The fire crossed the 101 Freeway and made its way to Solimar Beach.

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency to release state funds and resources to help firefighters battle against the blaze. "This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we'll continue to attack it with all we've got," said the governor in a statement.

According to officials, over 38,000 residents have been evacuated, with authorities going door to door to impose mandatory evacuations. Ventura County Sheriff Jeff Dean addressed the media at a press conference late Monday and urged people to cooperate with the evacuation effort.

"We urge you, you must abide by these evacuation notices," Dean said. "We saw the disasters and the losses that happened up north in Sonoma, and this is a fast, very dangerous moving fire."

In October, several wildfires blazed across northern California, burning a combined area of 245,000 acres. The fires included the Tubbs Fire, which was deemed as the most destructive fire in the history of the state.