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Thomas Fire Explodes To 55,000-Acres As Burn Area Reaches Pacific Ocean

VENTURA (CBSLA) — At least 150 homes and structures have been damaged or destroyed as the Thomas Fire rages out of control in Ventura Tuesday.

The wind-whipped fire exploded out of control overnight, burning 55,000 acres by Tuesday night. Up to 12,000 structures are threatened. Fire officials say 27,000 homes have been evacuated. The fire is at zero containment, and the burn area has almost reached the Pacific Ocean.

One of the structures destroyed was Vista Del Mar Hospital, a mental health facility.

Authorities reported a death Monday night in connection with evacuations from the Thomas Fire, but now say that there was no fatalities in connection with the blaze. No firefighters or civilians have been reported injured.

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With daylight came confirmation that several homes in neighborhoods across Ventura were destroyed overnight. One homeowner was stunned and emotional to find his home intact.

"Firemen kept coming and saying, 'We're leaving, you gotta leave,'" he said, pausing to regain his composure. "Unfortunately, this is the third time we've gone through this. When we left here this morning, we thought it was all over."

More than 1,000 firefighters from Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles counties are on the scene, battling the blaze, with one fireman describing it as an "epic fight".

"The wind is the real challenge that we have right now," said one Ventura County firefighter. "It gets embers everywhere, it seems random....all we can is get resources to where we can do the most good and hit it.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Ventura County on Tuesday

Local emergencies have been declared in Ventura County and the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula. More than 260,000 homes are without power in Ventura County.

Neighborhoods from Ventura's Main Street to Shell Road are under mandatory evacuation orders. Evacuation centers have been set up at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., and at Nordhoff High School, 1401 Maricopy Highway in Ojai.

Santa Paula and Ojai schools are all closed Tuesday due to the fire, along with Thomas Aquinas College. All the humans and canines at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation have also been evacuated from their facility.

Highway 33, along the border of the fire, was closed in both directions before noon.

Howling winds blew throughout Southern California overnight, keeping firefighters from being able to tackle the flames.

On Tuesday night fire crews were making a stand in a community called Casita Springs. It's on the 33 between Ventura and Ojai. KCAL9/CBS2's Tom Wait reports that raging fire tore through a nursery and the home that was attached to it. Neighbors said the couple who lived here spent years creating their business and that it only took a few embers to bring it down.

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