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Officials warn fires burning across Southern California could get worse if wind picks up

At least a half dozen blazes are burning across Southern California. The largest one, which has swept across Ventura County, has burned at least 430 homes and other buildings. To the south, a fire that ignited Thursday in San Diego County forced new evacuations, wounded several people and killed at least 25 horses. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    All across Southern California, from the mountains to the coast, major wildfires are burning into the weekend. They have already destroyed hundreds of homes and forced nearly 200,000 people to flee.

    William Brangham has our report.

  • William Brangham:

    By this morning, the largest of the fires had swept across even more of Ventura County. Along the way, the so-called Thomas Fire burned at least 430 homes and other buildings. The flames scorched a car and left a staircase that now leads nowhere.

  • Chip Bartley:

    It's amazing to watch the magnitude of the winds and the firestorms, and how fast things change. You just have to really — have to be alert.

  • William Brangham:

    More than 2,500 firefighters have been working in Ventura County. At least half-a-dozen blazes are burning across Southern California. The Thomas Fire alone covers more than 200 square miles, stretching from the Pacific Ocean into the mountains.

    To the south, the Lilac Fire in San Diego County ignited yesterday, and turned the small town of Fallbrook into a battleground.

  • Woman:

    Fire was coming right at us. I mean, within matters of minutes, it had spread.

  • William Brangham:

    Wind-driven flames accelerated across more than six square miles in just a matter of hours, destroying at least 85 buildings, and leaving entire neighborhoods in ruins. That, in turn, forced new evacuations, and several people were injured as they tried to escape.

    At a nearby ranch, trainers were forced to release hundreds of horses, when thick smoke and flames engulfed their surroundings. The California Horse Racing Board said today at least 25 horses were killed. And now more than 1,000 firefighters are working the Lilac Fire.

    But yet another fire broke out east of San Diego, and despite lighter winds, officials warned again this could still get worse.

  • Kendal Bortisser:

    When a hurricane hits the East Coast, there's no stopping it. When the Santa Ana winds come in, there's no stopping them. And so the crews were out there and continue to battle this incident.

  • William Brangham:

    In Los Angeles County, crews have made enough progress on the Skirball fire to lift most evacuation orders, allowing people to return to survey the damage.

    Amid the carnage, President Trump approved a California disaster declaration. But there is little prospect of a return to normal any time soon. If anything, the prospect of higher winds means this battle could continue for days.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham.

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