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Fast-moving California wildfires spread

Retirement communities built on golf courses and race horse stables housing thoroughbreds were among the sites engulfed by flames as the San Diego area became the latest front in California's wildfire fight.

The fire broke out amid dry, hot, windy conditions across the region that would be extreme for any season, but are especially stunning just two weeks from winter.

It exceeded six square miles in a matter of hours and burned dozens of houses as it tore through the tightly packed Rancho Monserate Country Club community in the small city of Fallbrook, known for its avocado orchards and horse ranches.

Three people were burned while escaping the flames, said captain Nick Schuler, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

At least 65 structures were destroyed, Cal Fire said.

The fire was on the eastern border of the Marine Corps' vast Camp Pendleton .

Meanwhile, firefighters in Ventura County, north-west of Los Angeles, gained 10% containment of the largest and most destructive fire in the state, which has destroyed 430 buildings.

The so-called Thomas Fire has grown to 206 square miles since it broke out on Monday.

Fire crews also made enough progress against other large fires around Los Angeles to lift most evacuation orders.

The fire 50 miles north of San Diego, driven by winds above 35mph, razed rows of mobile homes in the retirement community, leaving charred and mangled metal in its wake.

It was not immediately known what sparked the fire next to State Highway 76, but strong winds carried it across six lanes to the other side.

Evacuations were ordered in the area near the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and schools and casinos were being used as shelters.

As the flames approached the elite San Luis Rey Downs training facility for thoroughbreds, many of the more than 450 horses were cut loose to prevent them from being trapped in their stables if barns caught fire, said Mac McBride, of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Herds of horses galloped past flaming palm trees in their chaotic escape of a normally idyllic place. Not all survived.

Horse trainer Scott Hansen said he knows that some of his 30 horses at the facility died.

"I don't know how many are living and how many are dead," he said.

The California Horse Racing Board said approximately 25 horses were killed when eight barns burned and others in adjacent pastures were unaccounted for.

Surviving horses were taken to Del Mar race track and all of Friday's races at Los Alamitos Race Course were cancelled as the racing community mourned.

Along the coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara, tiny communities had so far survived close calls.

Slopes along US 101 were blackened, but homes remained standing at La Conchita and Faria Beach.

Sections of Carpinteria were under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders, but no flames were in sight early on Friday.

Inland from the coast the big fire burned vigorously in mountains near the town of Fillmore, but only outlying areas were evacuated.

It also remained a threat to Ojai, a scenic mountain town of 7,000 people dubbed Shangri-La and known for its boutique hotels and New Age spiritual retreats.


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