Where is Ventura County, California, and why is it in the news?

Late on the night of December 4th, a massive wildfire ripped through Ventura County, California, forcing more than 7,700 residents to evacuate. Here’s what you need to know about the fire and the county affected by it.

The fire spread spread more than 30,000 acres overnight — twice the size of Manhattan. The blaze, known as the Thomas Fire, soon reached the outskirts of Ventura, a coastal city of about 100,000 people. So far, about 150 buildings have been destroyed.

The fire is still raging, and it is expected to spread more today, December 5th, due to high winds. Both Ventura and Santa Paula have declared states of emergency.

"The fire is actively burning in the city of Ventura and there are homes and buildings actively burning at this time," Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Eric Buschow told the Los Angeles Times. 

Widespread power outages occurred in the surrounding area after the fire destroyed power lines. More than 260,000 people in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties experienced power loss, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ventura County is located to the north of Los Angeles, just south of Santa Barbara. The fire began near Santa Paula, which is 65 miles northwest of downtown L.A.

Hot, dry winds known as the Santa Anas are expected to continue on December 5th, reaching speeds of up to 70 mph and fanning the flames of the Thomas Fire.

"This will likely be the strongest and longest duration Santa Ana event we have seen so far this season," the National Weather Service wrote in a fire warning on December 4th.

This is the second wildfire in Southern California this year, after the October Anaheim Hills brush fire, near Disneyland. And in the same month, Northern California’s wine country was devastated by a different fire as well.

The Thomas Fire is a heartbreaking natural disaster. We hope that the citizens of Ventura County stay safe and that the fire is able to be contained quickly.