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Fierce winds fuel California wildfires; more evacuations and homes threatened

Courtesy NBC

(NBC News) California officials have issued the highest possible wildfire danger level for the first time.

A “purple flag” wildfire warning was issued as strong winds continue to fuel rapidly moving wildfires near Los Angeles. Fire officials say they haven’t seen this combination of fierce winds and extreme conditions in decades.

“The brush burning index, that’s the number that we rate the threat of a brush fire, is 296 this is the highest number I’ve seen in my career,” said Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas.

More than 4,000 firefighters are on the front lines, fighting the flames from the ground and the sky.

Four separate fires continue to burn out of control from Ventura to Los Angeles, burning hundreds of buildings and threatening thousands more including those in the exclusive Bel Air and Brentwood neighborhoods.

So far 200 homes have been destroyed and 200,000 people have been evacuated.

Some residents barely got out with the clothes on their backs.

“We can see the flames coming up and that was, that was it, we were out of here, we didn’t take anything,” said Carolin Maples a resident who lost her home to the fire.

If the fire proves unmanageable, officials say they may have no choice but to focus on evacuating over firefighting.