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Wednesday December 13th, 2017 9:48AM

The Latest: Fire text alert sent to 12 million Californians

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

2:50 p.m.

A text alert about dangerous fire weather conditions that was sent to 12 million Southern Californians in seven counties was the widest ever issued by the state Office of Emergency Services.

Winds early Thursday turned out not to be as dire as predicted, but Emergency Service Deputy Director Kelly Huston says the office erred on the side of caution because conditions were similar to those that led to 44 deaths in fires that broke out across Northern California on Oct. 8.

Huston says he would rather be criticized for potentially annoying someone than for not delivering a critical alert.

Some Northern Californians complained they never received evacuation alerts as the firestorms developed, and state lawmakers on Thursday announced plans to introduce legislation establishing statewide emergency alert protocols.

___

2:45 p.m.

A fast-moving wildfire fanned by Santa Ana winds has burned more than 500 acres (200 hectares) in rural San Diego County within hours of starting.

State fire authorities said Thursday more than five buildings have been destroyed, an unknown number has been damaged and more than 1,000 others are threatened around the community of Bonsall.

Officials shut down state Highway 76 in both directions and ordered mandatory evacuations around Bonsall. The blaze started shortly after 11 a.m.

Evacuations include a mobile home park, a golf course country club and two schools. Two lanes of Interstate 15 are also closed.

It's the latest wind-driven fire in Southern California, including destructive blazes to the northwest in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

___

1 p.m.

San Diego County officials have ordered mandatory evacuations due to a fast-moving fire fanned by Santa Ana winds.

California state fire authorities say in a statement that the fire has destroyed two buildings and damaged 12.

The fire was reported about 11 a.m. Thursday near the rural community of Bonsall and has grown to 150 acres (60 hectares) amid gusts up to 35 mph (56 kph).

The evacuations include a mobile home park, a golf course country club and two schools. Two lanes of Interstate 15 are also closed.

It's the latest among wind-driven fires in Southern California, including destructive blazes to the northwest in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

___

11:30 a.m.

Residents are being ordered to evacuate a tiny beachfront community northwest of Los Angeles where a huge wildfire is churning down hillsides toward seaside homes.

A California Highway Patrol officer drove through Faria Beach Thursday announcing the evacuations through a loudspeaker as surging winds roiled smoke through the streets.

Residents used garden hoses to spray palm trees to keep them from burning as firefighters scrambled to stop the progress of flames.

U.S. 101 along the coast was intermittently closed, as were several highways in and around the Ventura County resort town of Ojai (OH'-hi), where most of the 7,000 residents are under evacuation orders.

Thousands of homes remain threatened by at least four major Southern California wildfires that have destroyed structures and sent residents fleeing.

___

8:45 a.m.

A sheriff's official says a woman has been found dead after a car crash in an area under a mandatory evacuation order as the largest of the wildfires raged in Southern California.

Ventura County sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Donoghue tells The Associated Press that the woman's body was found Wednesday night at the scene of a crash in the Wheeler Canyon area of Santa Paula.

Donoghue says the car was found off the roadway after what appeared to be a single-car crash. He says there were no witnesses to the crash, but no foul play is suspected.

Donoghue says investigators were still trying to determine if the death was connected to the wildfires or if the person was trying to evacuate from the area.

The woman's name hasn't been released and a cause of death is still being determined.

___

6:45 a.m.

Southern California authorities have ordered evacuations for the first time in Santa Barbara County as crews protect coastal communities from a destructive wildfire that's steadily marching west and northwest.

A key stretch of U.S. 101 between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties was intermittently closed Thursday as flames jumped lanes.

Residents of 300 homes in the oceanfront city of Carpinteria were ordered to leave before dawn. A few miles down the coast, crews beat back flames creeping down hillsides toward the seaside hamlet of La Conchita, where at least one abandoned structure burned.

In Los Angeles County firefighters are watching for flare-ups as they try to contain three major blazes that have destroyed homes and sent thousands fleeing.

Forecasters say a more favorable wind forecast still calls for potentially dangerous gusts across the region.

___

5:15 a.m.

Authorities have closed a major freeway as flames from the largest and most destructive Southern California wildfire churn toward coastal and mountain communities northwest of Los Angeles.

Calmer overnight winds Thursday helped crews protect the Ventura County resort town of Ojai (OH'-hi), where most of the 7,000 residents are under evacuation orders.

The National Weather Service says a more favorable wind forecast still calls for potentially dangerous gusts, but ones not likely not to approach historic levels they'd feared.

Officials closed U.S. 101 for more than a dozen miles along the coast, cutting off a major route between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as fire charred heavy brush along lanes.

Thousands of homes remain threatened by at least four major Southern California wildfires that have destroyed structures and sent residents fleeing.

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