Authorities said the fires were fueled by dry conditions and fierce winds. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Ventura County, where he said the flames had destroyed hundreds of homes.
"This fire is very dangerous and is spreading rapidly, but we will continue to attack it with everything we have," the governor said in a statement. "It is essential that residents remain ready and evacuate immediately if they are asked to do so."
The Thomas Fire spread at an amazing speed. The sheriff's office received his first reports at 6:24 p.m. Monday. By midnight, it was estimated that the fire had reached 10,000 acres.
"Realistically, people have no idea what's happening or how bad this is," said Kat Jones, 38, who evacuated her home in the Ojai Valley, far from where the fire started, at First hours of Tuesday morning. "The fire has moved so fast, it's so big and really hard to predict, I think it's overwhelming for everyone."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the weather that fueled the Los Angeles County fire would likely continue for the next five days. Dry conditions and strong winds are expected to forecast at least Thursday to significantly expand the affected area.
"It's a very difficult time, but we'll get through this," he said. "We are a tough city, we are a strong city, we are a capable city".
California has seen some of its most destructive fires ever this year. In October, despite the outbreak of more than a dozen fires in the northern part of the state, a separate one grew rapidly in the Anaheim hills, burning thousands of acres. The fires have collectively killed more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.
A month before, La Tuna's fire blew smoke into the air over Los Angeles while the hills shone red. In terms of acres, that fire was the largest to destroy the city in 50 years, Garcetti said.
Eric Buschow, a sergeant in the sheriff's office, said the fire in Ventura County, known as the Thomas Fire, which was fueled by the Santa Ana winds, It was one of the worst I had seen, partly because of the number of homes that were affected. Often, he said, those strong winds push the fire into the ocean, burning through less populated canyons and their dense bushes on the way. Fires like these do not usually affect so many neighborhoods like the Thomas Fire, he said.
At least 186,000 people were without electricity in Ventura County on Tuesday, many of them in the affected area. The electrical faults made it difficult for the 1,100 firefighters who worked there to fight the flames.
In Los Angeles County, about 800 firefighters and 200 police officers responded to the fire, called Creek Fire, authorities said. On Tuesday night they said that Creek Fire had already overcome the La Tuna fire since earlier this year.
"We have lost structures, we have not lost lives," said Mr. Garcetti. "Do not wait, leave your homes."
Mr. Garcetti warned that the smoke was causing a severe degradation in air quality, one that was significantly worse than a Stage 3 smog alert.
Daryl L. Osby, county fire chief, said the Creek fire had been informed overnight, his apartment was busy fighting the fire in Ventura. He said it was extreme and erratic "in ways that people may not have experienced in the past," adding that five years of continuous drought and unpredictable winds, with gusts of up to 70 miles per hour, were partly to blame.
"We are in an extreme shooting at this moment, trying to protect lives and save property," he said.
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