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Intense Wildfires Ravage Southern California

Intense Wildfires Ravage Southern California

Friday, 8 December, 2017 - 10:00
A firefighter is working on extinguishing the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire in Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Firefighters battled several intense wind-driven wildfires on Friday that have swept across densely populated Southern California.

At least 500 structures have been destroyed forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes this week so far, including residents on the outskirts of Los Angeles, America's second-largest city.

More than 5,700 firefighters from across California and the region worked to stop the spread of six large wildfires and other smaller blazes that erupted since Monday, according to Reuters.

Firefighters and helicopters splashed and dumped bucketloads of water and fire retardant on flames against extreme backdrop of burning mountains and clouds of smoke as the blaze set fire to rows of houses and went all over highways and railroad tracks.

Winds with hurricane-force gusts of up to 130 kilometers per hour fueled the blazes.

Despite fires being so intense, only one fatality has been reported so far. Tim Lohman of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office said an unidentified body had been found overnight, AFP reported.

Three people sustained burn wounds and another suffered from smoke inhalation. Two firefighters were also injured, California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said on Twitter early on Friday.

A total of six major fires are now burning, and flames are heading south toward Santa Barbara and San Diego. While about 90 minutes south of Los Angeles, two fires were moving swiftly toward the town of Murrieta.

The Pentagon announced that the California National Guard is deploying 65 troops to aid firefighters' efforts, which are being hampered by the seasonal Santa Ana winds.

"There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds," Cal Fire chief Ken Pimlott said.

Officials warned residents to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

The fires are the second outbreak to ravage parts of California this autumn, as the state was hit by wind-driven wildfires in October that lead to the death of more than 40 people.

The California Department of Insurance said the northern California blazes caused insured losses of more than $9 billion.

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