UPDATE: 3rd Southern California wildfire breaks out

Photo courtesy: Ventura County Fire Department
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SANTA PAULA, Calif. (CBS) UPDATE

A third Southern California wildfire has broken out on the northern edge of Los Angeles, sweeping across 200 acres which is affecting Interstate 5. Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the fire started about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

CBS Los Angeles reports that officials named the fire, in Santa Clarita, the Rye Fire. Flames were burning in light to medium fuels amid wind gusts as much as 30 miles per hour, authorities said.

The I-5 Freeway was closed in both directions due to the fire, CBS Los Angeles reports.

The fire appeared to be linked to a power outage that left the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station's 911 system offline, authorities said.

The Sylmar and Lakeview Terrace neighborhoods were under threat as residents rushed to leave when heavy smoke billowed over the city, creating a health hazard for millions of people.

Further details were not immediately available, but television footage showed the flames burning across dry hillside area.

Santa Clarita, home to the California Institute of the Arts, is about 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Interstate 5 is a major link connecting Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay area.

Ferocious Santa Ana winds raking Southern California whipped explosive wildfires Tuesday, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of homes. The biggest blaze, the Thomas Fire, broke out Monday in Ventura County and grew wildly to more than 70 square miles in the hours that followed, county Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.

At least 150 structures had burned so far in Ventura County, officials said. Officials did not immediately say what type of buildings burned, but TV reports showed homes in flames as well as Vista del Mar Hospital, a facility that treats patients with mental problems, chemical dependency and veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas reported that one of the structures was a 200-unit apartment building in Ventura, the county seat.

More than 27,000 people have been evacuated and one firefighter was injured in Ventura County. There was no word on the extent of the injuries. After initial reports of a fatality, county fire Capt. Steve Kaufmann said a dead dog but no person was found in an overturned car.

Just weeks ago, wildfires that broke out in Northern California and its famous wine country killed 44 people and destroyed 8,900 homes and other buildings.

Fires aren't uncommon in Southern California this time of year before the winter rains set in, when the vegetation is tinder dry and winds blast the region.

ORIGINAL

Ferocious winds in Southern California have whipped up an explosive wildfire, doubling its size, forcing the evacuation of thousands of homes and knocking out power to thousands more.

The Ventura County Fire Department confirmed late Monday night that one death was associated with the menacing Thomas Fire; a person killed in a vehicle accident blamed on the blaze.

Fire officials say the fire broke out Monday east of Santa Paula, which is about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The flames reached nearly 8 square miles just hours later, and before midnight on the West Coast it had doubled in size to almost 16 square miles.

CBS News producer Sean Gallitz said he could see an almost unbroken fire line burning ferociously along the top of the hill side from almost 20 miles away from on the 101 freeway.

The winds were pushing it toward Santa Paula, a city of some 30,000 people about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Most of the evacuated homes were in that city.

Authorities said that the city of Ventura, which is 12 miles southwest and has 106,000 residents, was likely to feel the effects soon.

"The fire growth is just absolutely exponential," Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. "All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people, and protect structures."

The National Weather Service said winds of 43 mph with gusts over 60 mph were reported in the area and were expected to continue.

Sheriff's officials said two structures had burned, but it wasn't clear what they were.

The Southern California Edison power company said about 263,000 customers were without electricity in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties as of early Tuesday morning, after the fire torched a key supply line in the region.