Thousands Evacuate in Southern California as Wildfires Grow

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A series of large fires across Southern California continued to grow Wednesday, leading to the closure of schools and a major freeway and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

In Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, flames chewed through downtown Ventura and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. In Los Angeles, a fire sparked early Wednesday morning threatened some of the country’s most expensive real estate.

Fire officials expected conditions to worsen over the next several days, with wind gusts expected to pick up dramatically—up to 80 miles an hour. The conditions would be so dire that state fire officials said they declared the fire danger at the highest level: extreme.

“These will be winds that there will be no abilities to fight fires,” said Ken Pimlott director of CAL FIRE, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “This is about evacuations.”

Videos on social media showed motorists on the busy 405 freeway driving toward hillsides that were completely engulfed in flames. The freeway reopened Wednesday afternoon.

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