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Fire forces evacuation of campus, homes in Calif.

LOS ANGELES — A wildfire fanned by gusty Santa Ana winds raged along the fringes of Southern California communities on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of homes and a university while setting recreational vehicles ablaze.

The fire erupted during morning rush hour along U.S. 101 in the Camarillo area, about 50 miles west of Los Angeles. It was quickly spread by the winds, which also pushed other damaging blazes across the region.

The evacuation orders included the smoke-choked campus of California State University, Channel Islands, which has about 5,000 students.

Flames quickly moved down slopes toward subdivisions, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. More than 6,500 acres — some 10 square miles — were charred, with no containment. A cluster of RVs in a parking lot was destroyed as flames moved close to a mobile home park.

There were no reports of homes burning, and no firefighter injuries were reported.

Fire officials said Thursday afternoon that a hazardous materials team will deal with a store of highly toxic pesticides that caught fire at a Laguna Farms property near the university, according the Ventura County Star. Area residents were warned to stay out of the smoke as much as possible.

More than 850 firefighters and law enforcement officials from multiple agencies worked to protect numerous homes around Camarillo Springs Golf Course and in a section of adjacent Thousand Oaks.

Air tankers were grounded for a time in the afternoon because of the winds, which gusted to 50 mph. Planes dropping water and retardant, along with six helicopters, were trying to create a perimeter and contain the fire.

The area is at the western edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, which abruptly descend to a coastal agricultural plain. It was possible the flames could burn all the way to the Pacific Ocean, about 10 miles from the start point.

About 100 miles to the east, two homes, a number of outbuildings and several vehicles were destroyed, and two other homes were damaged in a 5-acre grass fire that prompted the evacuation of an elementary school in Jurupa Valley, said Theresa Williams, a spokeswoman for CalFire.

A Ventura County firefighter looks on as a wind-whipped brush fire burns behind homes Thursday in Camarillo Springs, Calif. More than 6,500 acres have been charred.

Anne Cusack | Los Angeles Times

A Ventura County firefighter looks on as a wind-whipped brush fire burns behind homes Thursday in Camarillo Springs, Calif. More than 6,500 acres have been charred.

Fire forces evacuation of campus, homes in Calif. 05/02/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 2, 2013 11:24pm]
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