Wildfire forces thousands to flee homes north of Los Angeles

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The Skirball Fire in Los Angeles has forced hundreds of residents in the wooded hills near the affluent Bel-Air neighborhood to evacuate and charred more than 150 acres (60 hectares).

"We're full, we've taken in over 450 horses and four goats", Heidi Allyn, a stable assistant at the sprawling Los Angeles Equestrian Center, said Wednesday.

People watch as firefighters fight to save multimillion-dollar homes along Cobblestone Drive after a fast-moving fire swept into Ventura.

The water-dropping planes and helicopters essential to taming and containing wildfires have been mostly grounded because it's too risky to fly them in the strong wind.

Wind gusts were forecast to top out at 70mph on Wednesday and remain strong through the week. According to Ventura County fire chief Tony McHale, power outages are affecting the water supply. "Really, Mother Nature's going to decide when we have the ability to put it out".

Dry Santa Ana winds, blowing westward from the California desert, could reach 75 miles per hour (130 km per hour) on Thursday. It has spread so far, the Pacific Ocean may be the only thing keeping it in check.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency over the area on Tuesday. Authorities have opened 16 evacuation centers throughout the Los Angeles area.

Thousands have been forced to evacuate and still don't know the status of their homes. Dozens of houses in one neighborhood burned to the ground.

People watch for flying embers during a brush fire in Ventura, California, on December 5.

"It is sad", Keasler said.

Linda Keasler said they were just glad to be alive despite losing so much.

Residents living west of I-405 should brace for evacuations, in case flames jump the freeway, officials said earlier on Wednseday.

For many in the industry, it was a déjà vu experience after Northern California was hit by wind-whipped fires throughout the Wine Country.

"We had rains last winter that caused all the brush and everything to grow, and throughout the summer they dried out", said Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Joey Marron. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the gusty winds expected to last most of the week had created a risky situation and he urged 150,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders to leave their homes before it's too late.

"It seemed like a lava flow coming down toward the city", said Vince Tovey, an electrical inspector for Ventura. "Do not wait. Leave your homes".

Tuesday, Southern California Edison tried to downplay the possibility its equipment may have sparked the fires.

The Red Cross often accepts volunteers to help with aid efforts in their communities and regions, so if you're interested in helping with the practical work of helping families and individuals survive the fires and recover from them, you could consider getting more actively involved.

In LA County, television shows with large outdoor sets including HBO's "Westworld" and CBS's "S.W.A.T." halted production of because of worries about the safety of cast and crew.

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