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Southern California fires force 200,000 people to flee

Southern California fires force 200,000 people to flee
From Reuters - December 7, 2017

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hundreds of Los Angeles area schools shut their doors on Thursday as raging wildfires wreaked havoc on Southern California, forcing about 200,000 people to flee and destroying hundreds of houses.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the countrys second largest with more than 640,000 students, said it closedat least 265 of its nearly 1,100 schools.

Dozens of schools were also closed in neighboring Ventura County, where the largest of the area blazes, the Thomas Fire, has charred more than 95,000 acres. The school district, with nearly 17,000 students, said it hoped to reopen on Monday.

But that will only happen if a number of factors are in place that will guarantee the health and safety of our students and staff, Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Dave Creswell said in a statement.

Dry Santa Ana winds, blowing westward from the California desert, could reach 75 miles per hour (130 km per hour) on Thursday. Strong winds overnight creating extreme fire danger, said an alert sent by the countrywide emergency system in Los Angeles.

Video and photographs on social media showed flame-covered hillsides along busy roadways on Wednesday as commuters slowly made their way to work or home, rows of houses reduced to ash and firefighters spraying water on walls of fire as they tried to save houses.

The Thomas Fire continued its westward push on Thursday, forcing a few hundred Santa Barbara County residents to be evacuated and the closing of coastal Highway 101 north of Ventura city.

In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, the Creek Fire destroyed at least 30 homes, blackened more than 12,000 acres (4,800 hectares) and forced the evacuation of 2,500 homes and a convalescent center.

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