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In pics: California wildfires force 120,000 to flee as blazes tear through south of state

Wildfires driven by strong desert winds continue to rage through southern California, destroying hundreds of buildings and forcing 120,000 people to flee a phenomenon that could last until Christmas.

world Updated: Dec 09, 2017 09:18 IST
Agencies
The Thomas fire burns through Los Padres National Forest near Ojai, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017.
The Thomas fire burns through Los Padres National Forest near Ojai, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo)

Exhausted fire crews made little headway on Friday in containing the most troublesome of six major wildfires burning in Southern California as dry winds fanned flames that ravaged avocado farms, racehorse stables and a retirement community.

Forecasters predicted weather would continue to challenge the 8,700 firefighters who have been battling fast-moving blazes for five days from the San Diego area up the Pacific Coast to Santa Barbara County. At least 500 structures have been destroyed, six people hurt and four firefighters injured.

At the peak, about 212,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Evacuation orders were lifted in some areas, welcome news for many in shelters waiting to see if their homes survived.

Cars burn along with a home during the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wild fire in Bonsall, California on Thursday. (REUTERS)
Firefighters jump a fence to try and save a burning home from the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wild fire, came through Bonsall, California. (REUTERS)
A DC-10 aircraft drops fire retardant next to a house in Bonsall, California. (REUTERS)
A helicopter drops water over a wildfire Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Bonsall, Calif. The wind-swept blazes have forced tens of thousands of evacuations and destroyed dozens of homes in Southern California. (AP Photo)

North of San Diego, the Lilac Fire swelled from 10 acres to 4,100 acres in a few hours on Thursday, prompting Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for San Diego County. The fire destroyed 65 structures.

Fallbrook, known for its avocado orchards, burned, and homes were destroyed in its Rancho Monserate Country Club retirement community. Blazes approached the Camp Pendleton marine base.

Firefighters prepare to battle the Lilac fire in Bonsall. (AFP Photo)
This Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 photo by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik aboard the International Space Station, shows smoke from wildfires in Ventura County, California, the largest plume at right center, and a smaller plume from fires in the Los Angeles area at left center. (AP Photo)
A firefighting helicopter works the Thomas Fire on December 7, 2017 near Fillmore, California. Strong Santa Ana winds are pushing multiple wildfires across the region, expanding across tens of thousands of acres and destroying hundreds of homes and structures. (AFP Photo)
Burned mobile homes are seen at the Monserate Country Club after the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire, swept through their community in Bonsall, California, U.S., December 8, 2017. (REUTERS Photo)