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Fast-spreading wildfire burns 20 homes in California retirement community

Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 at 6:23 pm PST

A firefighter battles a wildfire in Ojai, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Summary

Crews say some of the latest blazes are moving 'dangerously' fast

VENTURA, CA. (NEWS 1130) – At least 20 homes have burned in a retirement community as a wildfire surges through northern San Diego County.

The homes are burning in the tightly-packed Rancho Monserate Country Club community in the small city of Fallbrook. The wind-whipped blaze erupted Thursday afternoon and authorities say it’s moving dangerously fast.

Two people have been burned and about 10 square kilometers of land have been blackened.

The blaze is one of at least five destructive fires burning in Southern California. A fire that flared Thursday afternoon in the Murrieta area of Riverside County, north of San Diego County, has destroyed at least one home.

Several evacuation centers have been set up nearby.

Meantime, a fast-growing wildfire fanned by Santa Ana winds in rural San Diego County has burned 400 hectares only hours after 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 Bonsall. The picturesque community of 4,000 people amid rolling hills is known for its equestrian facilities.

Officials shut down state Highway 76 in both directions, ordered mandatory evacuations around Bonsall and opened shelters at schools and casinos.

State officials said the military was assisting with helicopters. The area is near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.
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.

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