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Wednesday December 13th, 2017 5:25PM

The Latest: Surge in California fire brings new evacuations

By The Associated Press
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VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on Southern California wildfires (all times local):

10:30 p.m.

A surge from the biggest of the wildfires burning in Southern California has forced several thousand more people to evacuate in a community of artists and resorts.

Ventura County sheriff's Sgt. Eric Buschow says flames have been creeping closer and slowly surrounding the town of Ojai (OH'hi), and Wednesday night increasing winds brought them close enough to expand evacuation orders there.

Flames, now about 4 miles away, were visible from the city's downtown for the first time on Tuesday night, and ash was raining down.

Parts of Ojai were already under evacuation orders, and the entire valley surrounding it had been under a voluntary evacuation advisory since the fire broke out on Monday.

The new evacuations meant most of the town of about 7,000 people was under mandatory orders.

Nearly 30,000 people are under evacuation orders for the fire.

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This story corrects the day of the week.

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7:50 p.m.

The largest and most destructive wildfire in Southern California has grown to 140 square miles and fire officials say the worst may be yet to come.

The 90,000-acre fire burning in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles has swept through ridges and canyons to the sea and Santa Ana winds that drove it are expected to return with a vengeance overnight.

State fire director Ken Pimlott says winds that eased in the afternoon could return with gusts up to 80 mph Thursday that would make it impossible to fight the fire.

Dozens of homes have burned since the blaze erupted Monday. Nearly 1,800 firefighters and a fleet of aircraft are fighting the flames but the blaze is only 5 percent contained and an estimated 12,000 buildings are in danger.

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6:20 p.m.

A wildfire in a wealthy western area of Los Angeles has reached the estate and winery owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Roxanne Langer at Moraga Vineyards in Bel Air says a temperature-controlled wine storage shed burned after the fire erupted before dawn Wednesday but it's unclear how much wine was lost.

She says firefighters stepped in to douse the flames with the aid of helicopters and that other storage sheds, the winery itself and the estate's unoccupied house are not damaged.

The winery has been evacuated.

Murdoch bought the property for about $30 million in 2013.

Langer says it appears the 7 acres (2.8 hectares) of vines suffered only slight damage and the grapes already had been harvested.

In a Facebook statement, Murdoch says some neighbors suffered heavy losses and his thoughts and prayers are with them.

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3:45 p.m.

Firefighters have stopped the spread of a wildfire that has destroyed homes near the world-famous Getty museum in Los Angeles.

Deputy Fire Chief Charles Butler says firefighters and aircraft stopped the growth of the 475-acre (192-hectare) blaze in the Bel Air neighborhood.

There are currently few visible flames and crews are concentrating on the southwest corner of the fire.

Butler says four homes have been destroyed and 11 damaged since the blaze erupted before dawn Wednesday in an area that includes many hilltop mansions.

About 700 homes, an apartment building and a school have been ordered evacuated.

Northeast winds driving the flames eased by afternoon but are expected to return in full force Wednesday night. Firefighters are struggling to ring the blaze before that happens.

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3:15 p.m.

California's top firefighter says the state is in for the worst Santa Ana wind conditions it's ever seen.

Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says the wind wildfire threat to Southern California for Thursday is purple. The has color has never been used before, means there is extreme danger and that fires that erupt will burn uncontrollably.

Below that is red, meaning high danger of fires that burn rapidly and intensely and are difficult to control.

Pimlott says the winds could hit 80 mph (129 kph) and make it impossible to fight Southern California wildfires that have destroyed at least 200 homes and buildings.

Five wind-driven flames continue to threaten homes in Ventura and Los Angeles. Some 200,000 people are under evacuation orders.

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1:25 p.m.

The University of California, Los Angeles, has canceled classes for the rest of the day due to difficult traffic problems stemming from a wildfire.

The university's website says many students, faculty and staff have been unable to reach the campus Wednesday, so classes from noon onward are canceled.

The athletics department says a night men's basketball game and all other team workouts and practices are canceled.

The fire erupted before dawn in the Sepulveda Pass, just up Interstate 405 from UCLA. The fire has destroyed some homes as it spread into the Bel Air area.

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10 a.m.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says at least four and possibly six homes have been destroyed by a wildfire in the city's Bel Air area.

The fire erupted before dawn Wednesday in Sepulveda Pass, a major commuter route between the west side of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley to the north.

The fire burned up hillsides on the east side of the pass into expensive neighborhoods that are now under evacuation orders.

The mayor says the fire is now 150 acres with zero containment.

Some 500 firefighters are battling the fire along with water-dropping helicopters and airplanes laying down streams of fire retardant.

The dangerous Santa Ana winds that have fanned fires across Southern California this week have diminished over the new LA fire but conditions are very dry, with just 9 percent relative humidity.

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9:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump says his thoughts and prayers "are with everyone" in the path of California's latest wildfires.

Trump in a tweet is also encouraging everyone "to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials" and thanking first responders for their "incredible work!"

Wind-driven fires have raced through California communities for the second time in two months, leaving hundreds of homes feared lost and uprooting tens of thousands of people.

The most damaging fire is in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where more than 100 square miles (259 sq. kilometers) and numerous homes have burned.

Deadly fires tore through Northern California earlier this year.

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8:03 a.m.

The biggest and most destructive of several wildfires burning in Southern California has scorched more than 101 square miles.

State fire authorities say the fire burning in Ventura County about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles is also considered a threat to 12,000 structures Wednesday.

Dozens of homes have burned since the fire erupted Monday amid fierce Santa Ana winds.

A new fire burning among ridges and canyons on the west side of Los Angeles has also burned several homes while snarling morning commuter traffic.

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7:35 a.m.

Two homes are burning in a wildfire that has erupted in an exclusive ridge-top neighborhood in Los Angeles, the latest to hit fire-plagued Southern California.

The fire broke out before dawn Wednesday on the east side of Interstate 405 in the Sepulveda Pass and raced up steep slopes into neighborhoods at the top.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has deployed hundreds of firefighters and called in helicopters and airplanes.

Evacuations have been ordered and a wider area has been told to be ready for orders to leave.

It's the same region of Los Angeles where hundreds of homes burned in the famous 1961 Bel Air Fire.

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6:52 a.m.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in an exclusive ridge-top neighborhood in Los Angeles as a dangerous new wildfire burns in Southern California.

The fire erupted before dawn Wednesday on the east side of Sepulveda Pass, which carries heavily traveled Interstate 405 through the Santa Monica Mountains on the city's western side.

Helicopters are making water drops and more than 200 firefighters are battling flames close to homes.

In addition to the mandatory evacuations, Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart says a wider area on the east side of the pass has been advised to get ready in case of evacuation orders.

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5:35 a.m.

A brush fire has erupted on the west side of Los Angeles along Interstate 405 in Sepulveda Pass.

Fire Department spokesman Margaret Stewart says the fire was reported at 4:52 a.m. Wednesday and is burning uphill, driven by topography rather than winds.

Stewart says 47 firefighters are on the scene, setting up protection for homes at the top of the steep slopes. Two firefighting helicopters have been assigned.

Sepulveda Pass carries heavily traveled Interstate 405 through the Santa Monica Mountains between the western neighborhoods of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley to the north.

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12:40 a.m.

The same vicious winds that made three Southern California wildfires so destructive are also making the firefight itself more difficult.

The water-dropping planes and helicopters essential to fighting massive fires have been mostly grounded because it's too dangerous to fly in the strong gusts.

Commanders hoped to have them back in the air on Wednesday morning, but all indications are the winds will be whipping then too.

The blazes brought evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people, destroyed nearly 200 homes and have remained mostly out control.

The largest and most destructive of the blazes, an 85-square-mile wildfire in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, had nearly reached the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night after starting 30 miles inland a day earlier.

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The 5:35 a.m. entry has been corrected to say west side.

.

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