SANTA PAULA, Calif. (AP) — Ferocious winds in Southern California whipped up an explosive wildfire, which forced more than 600 homes to evacuate.

Fire officials say the blaze, dubbed the Thomas Fire, broke out Monday east of Santa Paula, which is about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The flames reached nearly 8 square miles just hours later.

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Officials say one person has died in an auto accident related to the fire, but did not give any details.

Authorities say Ventura, a city of over 100,000 people 12 miles away, is expected to feel the effects of the fire soon.

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Thomas Aquinas College, a school with about 350 students, has also been evacuated.

The National Weather Service says winds of 43 mph with gusts over 60 mph have been reported in the area and are expected to continue.

Sheriff’s officials say two structures have burned so far. It wasn’t clear what they were.

Evacuation centers have been set up at the Ventura Fairgrounds in Ventura and Nordoff high school in Ojai, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

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