500 homes razed in California wildfires

December 08, 2017

The expected strength of the winds driving California's wildfires has reached uncharted territory.

A brush fire driven by gusty winds that have plagued Southern California all week has exploded rapidly and destroyed dozens of trailer homes in a retirement community north of San Diego.

The fire expanded on Thursday to 10sq/km in a matter of hours and tore through the tightly packed Rancho Monserate Country Club community in the small city of Fallbrook, known for its avocado orchards and horse ranches. At least two people were hospitalised with burns.

The destructive blaze broke out as firefighters were trying to corral major wildfires around the Los Angeles area and 200km north near Ventura, where a massive fire threatened Ojai, a scenic mountain town dubbed "Shangri-La" and known for its boutique hotels and New Age spiritual retreats.

Like other fires that have broken out this week, Fallbrook has a history of destructive blazes. Ten years ago, as fall fires raced across Southern California, a blaze in Fallbrook injured five people, destroyed 206 homes and burned 36sq/km.

Thursday's fire prompted closure of state Highway 76 in both directions and evacuations in an area near the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. Evacuation centres were set up in schools and casinos.

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