Map of hot spots: See where California wildfires are growing

The Skirball fire prompted a full closure of the 405 Freeway and mandatory evacuations

The Skirball fire prompted a full closure of the 405 Freeway and mandatory evacuations

Now a round of wildfires has broken out in Southern California, and they may be scarier than the October fires.

Where there was no fire, there was fear.

In 1961, a fire consumed 500 homes in the hillside district.

California Fire Department (Cal Fire) officials warned residents to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

The winds can push a fire the length of a football field in a minute, said Scott McLean, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

California utility companies can be held financially liable for wildfire damage linked to their equipment, even if they followed all applicable safety rules.

The blazes destroyed hundreds of houses and forced many Los Angeles-area schools to close. Officials were focused on keeping the fire from jumping the freeway and heading east.

The fire was only 5 percent contained as of Wednesday night.

"This breeze is nothing", said Shane Nollsch, who had traveled from Lyon County, Nevada, arriving at 3 a.m. Wednesday to help fight the blaze.

"It's different winds, different fuels, so it's a sharp learning curve", Mason said.

La Conchita, a tiny town hard against Highway 101, was threatened by flames early Thursday. The effect of climate change on the Santa Ana winds remains uncertain, though a 2006 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggested that warming could shift the winds' season leading to larger areas burned by fires. One firefighter was injured but has since been released from the hospital, officials said. Officials expected the fire to cross the county line into Santa Barbara overnight as winds continued to strengthen.

Tall stands of eucalyptus shook with the strengthening wind, which was driving the flames toward several multimillion-dollar homes, a brewery and a small vineyard.

About 700 homes and an apartment building were evacuated Wednesday.

More than 50,000 Ventura County residents were evacuated from 15,000 homes in the first 24 hours of the conflagration.

"I don't want to use the word confident", he said. "We've never seen a fire with this much speed and range".

Los Angeles Police Cmdr. They come late in the year when weather conditions typically stifle potential fires and some have sprouted up in the middle of dense urban areas typically far from fire zones.

"It was insane", the 56-year-old said with a laugh.

Warning of "extreme" fire behavior, authorities and said those fighting the Creek Fire were facing multiple difficulties. The number for Thursday is 296, a record high. Firefighting crews set up on the southbound side of the 405 to prevent the fire from jumping the freeway, and northbound vehicles were being turned back. At least 265 schools have been closed.

Berman reported from Washington.

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