Wildfires threaten thousands of homes in Southern California

VENTURA, Calif. -- Wildfires in Southern California are being powered Tuesday night by very strong Santa Ana winds gusting as high as 80 miles per hour. The fires -- in Los Angeles and Ventura counties -- have already burned more than 47,000 acres. More than 27,000 people have been evacuated, and more than 3,500 firefighters are on the job.

They're some of the harshest conditions firefighters have faced in years. Extremely dry, powerful winds roared through Ventura County Monday night. Within hours, a 50-acre fire exploded, and the winds haven't let up.

"We're just hoping to keep this from extending into this whole neighborhood," firefighter Jeff Maurer said.

Also hampering the fight: little or no water pressure on several hillside streets.

"So you just can't get water out of the hydrant?" CBS News asked Maurer. "Yeah, there's only a limited amount. You can only get so much," he said.

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Wildfires are burning out of control Tuesday night in Southern California.

CBS News

Once the water from fire trucks ran out, all that remained on several streets were garden hoses. So residents filled buckets, trying to douse hot spots before they reignite. But throughout the day, the fire claimed even more homes.

Police are going door to door, warning residents to leave.

"The wind's shifted. It's coming down. It's four or five houses down. It's time to go," one resident said.

In another neighborhood, we found Steven Phillips. 

"Why did you come here?" CBS News asked. "To check on my son's house," Phillips said. His son is a firefighter, now on the lines, his pregnant wife safely evacuated.

"You see this, what's the only thing you can do now?" CBS asked. "Just stay as a family and be blessed that you are alive. You can always rebuild," Phillips said.

The extreme fire conditions are expected to last through at least Friday morning.

CBS News correspondent Carter Evans was in a helicopter flying 4,500 feet above the Sylmar fire near Los Angeles. 

He reports that an even bigger fire about 50 miles north had hit some wealthy communities. Some neighborhoods were wiped out, with just a few homes left standing. That fire was growing by the minute after exploding overnight, Evans reported.