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Ventura County wildfire destroys more homes, reaches Pacific Ocean

Ruben Vives, Laura J. Nelson, Sarah Parvini, Matt Hamilton and Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

VENTURA, Calif. -- The fire that has ravaged Ventura County continued to burn out of control Wednesday, reaching the Pacific Ocean unchecked as officials warned many more homes have been lost.

The fast-moving, wind-driven wildfire continued to rage through the city of Ventura on Tuesday evening, jumping Highway 33 and burning through oil fields before crossing the 101 Freeway into Solimar Beach, authorities said.

The blaze has consumed 50,500 acres on its journey to the ocean. The 101 remains open, but authorities warned drivers to be cautious traveling through the area.

Thousands of homes were still threatened by flames, 27,000 people were forced to flee, a firefighter was injured and Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, as some 1,100 personnel continued to battle the blaze.

At least 150 structures -- including one large apartment complex and the Vista Del Mar Hospital, a psychiatric facility -- were consumed by flames. But Cal Fire suspects the true number is hundreds more; firefighters just haven't been able to get into areas to know for sure.

Authorities Tuesday evening continued to widen evacuation zones and announced dozens of school closures in Ventura and Conejo Valley for Wednesday.

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The Casitas Municipal Water District warned residents to boil their tap water for about a minute before drinking and cooking. The order was issued to residents in the Upper Ojai Valley, Casitas Springs, Foster Park and the entire city of Ventura because of the loss of pressure and water supply from fire-related power outages.

The fall weather sequence helped spark the Thomas fire, which as of 7:45 p.m. Tuesday was 0 percent contained, fire officials said. In the last couple of years, the rains came before the Santa Ana winds. But this year, with no rain in three months, the winds hit dry fuels.

"This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we'll continue to attack it with all we've got," Brown said. "It's critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so."

The state sent resources to help with firefighting efforts as authorities opened new shelters throughout the county. Ventura County officials have asked the state for eight fixed-wing firefighting aircraft to help douse the flames, said Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Donoghue.

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