Ferocious winds in Southern California whipped up an explosive wildfire that forced thousands of homes to evacuate and could soon threaten a city of more than 100,000, authorities said.
The blaze broke out Monday and grew wildly to more than 15 square miles in the hours that followed, consuming vegetation that hasn’t burned in decades, Ventura County Fire Sgt. Eric Buschow said.
The winds were pushing it toward Santa Paula, a city of some 30,000 people about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Most of the evacuated homes were in that city.
Authorities said that the city of Ventura, which is 12 miles southwest and has 106,000 residents, was likely to feel the effects soon.
“The fire growth is just absolutely exponential,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. “All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people, and protect structures.”
Thomas Aquinas College, a school with about 350 students,…