California wildfires bear down on Los Angeles suburbs

Up to 12,000 properties are at risk and hundreds have already been destroyed this week in Southern California.

    Flames from the largest and most destructive Southern California wildfire churned towards coastal and mountain communities northwest of Los Angeles on Thursday, disrupting travel on a major highway and triggering more evacuations.

    A more favourable wind forecast still called for potentially dangerous gusts, but ones not likely to approach historic levels forecasters had feared, according to the National Weather Service.

    "This is good news for the fire crews as the winds will not be driven quite as vigorously," a weather service statement said.

    Calmer overnight conditions helped crews protect the Ventura County resort town of Ojai where most of the 7,000 residents were under new evacuation orders following a burst of wind late Wednesday.

    At Ojai Valley Community Hospital, officials said they moved non-ambulatory patients to another hospital as a precaution. The hospital said in a statement that several dozen patients still remained there on Thursday.

    A woman was found dead in a wrecked car in an evacuation zone near the city of Santa Paula, where the Ventura County fire began on Monday night, but officials could not immediately say if the accident was fire-related.

    Officials intermittently closed US 101 along the coast, cutting off the major route for several hours as fire charred heavy brush along lanes.

    SOURCE: AP news agency


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