Southern California wildfires force mass evacuations around Los Angeles

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close Jonathan Hunt reports from Santa Paula, CA.

Santa Ana winds feeding dangerous California wildfires

Jonathan Hunt reports from Santa Paula, CA.

The relentless wind-whipped wildfires that have ravaged Southern California are expected to worsen Thursday, as dangerous winds are forecast to fan the flames in different directions and forcing new evacuations around the second-largest city in the U.S.

Winds on Thursday topped 50 mph already in the greater Los Angeles area, keeping residents across the region wary as more than 200,000 people have been forced from their homes and nearly 200 homes and buildings have been destroyed since the fires broke out Sunday.

“We are in the beginning of a protracted wind event,” Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told the Los Angeles Times. “There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds.”

Motorists on Highway 101 watch flames from the Thomas fire leap above the roadway north of Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.  As many as five fires have closed highways, schools and museums, shut down production of TV series and cast a hazardous haze over the region. About 200,000 people were under evacuation orders. No deaths and only a few injuries were reported. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Motorists on Highway 101 watch flames from the Thomas fire leap above the roadway north of Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Skirball Fire, which erupted Wednesday morning, has burned about 500 acres so far near large estates in the ritzy Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles and is only 5 percent contained. Firefighters battled to save multimillion-dollar homes in the path of the flames while trying to evacuate residents.

“These are days that break your heart,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a news conference. “These are also days that show the resilience of our city.”

No civilian casualties or fatalities have been reported since the firestorm began Sunday, according to Reuters. Three firefighters were injured and hospitalized in stable condition as a result of the Skirball Fire, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

"We are in the beginning of a protracted wind event. There will be no ability to fight fire in these kinds of winds."

– Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire

The Getty Center and the nearby Skirball Center, both on the west side of the 405 freeway opposite the blaze did not appear to be threatened. Both facilities were closed for the day and were to remain closed on Thursday, FOX 11 reported. Santa Monica College and all schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district were also closed Thursday, FOX 11 said.

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Fifty-two Los Angeles Unified School District schools and another 40 charter schools were also closed citywide in response to the Skirball Fire and other blazes in the area, district officials said.

Officials warned the color-coded system showing the expected strength of the Santa-Ana winds on Thursday driving the region's fierce wildfires has reached uncharted territory, pushing past red , which means "high" into the color purple that means "extreme."

"We're talking winds that can surface that can be 80 miles an hour," Pimlott said. "These will be winds that there will no ability to fight fires."

Flames from the Thomas fire burn above a truck on Highway 101 north of Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Motorists on Highway 101 watch flames from the Thomas fire leap above the roadway north of Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Those fierce winds can instantly turn a tiny fire into a large one, or carry embers that spark new fires miles away.

Millions of cellphones buzzed loudly Tuesday night from San Diego to Santa Barbara with a sound that usually means an Amber Alert, but this time meant a rare weather warning for strong winds making extreme fire danger.

Firefighters are battling the blazes fueled by the whipping Santa Ana winds; Adam Housley has the details for 'Special Report.' Video

Devastating wildfires sweep across southern California

Officials hope the electronic push will keep the whole region alert and keep the death toll from the week's fires at zero.

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Melissa Rosenzweig, 47, was briefly back home Tuesday after evacuating from her Ventura house, which has been spared so far while most on her street had burned in the largest and most destructive of the region's fires, the Thomas Fire. She and her husband were about to evacuate again, hoping they will get lucky twice as the new winds arrive.

"Heck yeah I'm still worried," Rosenzweig told the Associated Press. "We're very grateful but I know we're not out of the woods."

Carrie Shore walks by her neighbors wildfire damaged home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Crystal Shore look over the wildfire damaged neighbors home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

In what may have been an early sign of the 140-square-mile fire getting new life, several thousand new evacuations were ordered late Tuesday night in Ojai, a town of artists and resorts. The blaze had been creeping there already, but an increase in winds pushed it close enough for many more to flee.

Workers from the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power walk past a home destroyed by wildfire along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Workers from the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power walk past a home destroyed by wildfire along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The Thomas Fire killed more than two dozen horses at a stable and had destroyed at least 150 structures, a number that was expected to get far bigger as firefighters are able to assess losses.

Air tankers that had been grounded much of the week because of high winds flew on Wednesday, dropping flame retardant. Firefighters rushed to attack the fires before winds picked up again.

"We're basically in an urban firefight in Ventura, where if you can keep that house from burning, you might be able to slow the fire down," said Tim Chavez, a fire behavior specialist at the blaze. "But that's about it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed

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