AP PHOTOS: Flames chew through Southern California homes

Mansions and modest homes alike are in flames in Southern California.

Charging walls of fire quickly tore through suburban areas, chasing tens of thousands of people from their houses and turning their possessions to dust but sparing any deaths or serious injuries.

Smoke obscured the sky in Ventura, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, leading James and Josie Ralstin to don masks Tuesday as they carried some belongings from their home in view of a burning residence.

Fires are not common in December but can break out when parched vegetation and a lack of rain combine with the region's infamously dangerous Santa Ana winds. Hardly any measurable rain has fallen in Southern California in the past six months.

The speed of the flames served as a reminder of the wildfires in Northern California wine country eight weeks ago that killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and other buildings.


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