November 18, 2005

Wildfire Threatens California Community

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A wildfire whipped by hot Santa Ana winds raced through parched canyons near the Southern California coast on Friday and threatened expensive communities near the seaside city of Ventura.

Thick black smoke billowed above the city in television images. But no injuries were reported and no houses had been destroyed.

Dozens of residents packed their belongings into cars and streamed out of some neighborhoods even though authorities had not ordered evacuations.

More than 1,000 firefighters aided by water-dropping planes and helicopters fought the blaze, which broke out on rugged hillsides overnight and grew to more than 1,500 acres (600 hectares) by 9 a.m. PST.

Officials said the fire, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, was becoming less dangerous as the day went on and winds diminished.