The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Apocalyptic images show the devastation caused by raging Southern California fires

Fire crews search for hot spots among destroyed homes in Fallbrook, Calif. (Gregory Bull/AP)
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Ferocious, wind-whipped fires continued to roar across Southern California, burning massive stretches of land.

The infernos spread quickly and mercilessly, burning through untold numbers of buildings and creating scenes of apocalyptic destruction throughout the region, from the Santa Barbara area down to San Diego. Entire communities were emptied as tens of thousands of people grabbed what they could and fled.

Firefighters in multiple locations battled blazes that were spurred by intense winds and extremely dry conditions.

In Ventura County, the Thomas Fire had burned more than 130,000 acres by Friday morning — an area larger than Lake Tahoe.

Other blazes — fires dubbed Creek, Rye, Skirball and Horizon — burned on the outskirts of Los Angeles; columns of flames also advanced toward the heart of Los Angeles, the nation’s second most populous city, destroying homes in the tony Bel Air neighborhood. Another inferno, known as the Lilac Fire, broke out Thursday in San Diego.

Ventura “looked like Armageddon,” one evacuated resident told the Los Angeles Times, adding: “I sat facing the fires, and it was like watching Rome burn. I cried.”

“We rode down into town trying to make sense of what we were seeing — police everywhere, firetrucks, helicopters,” another Ventura County resident told The Post. “It was like a war zone.”

Forecasters and officials said the fires will continue to endanger the region: The National Weather Service issued “red flag” warnings of heightened fire risk into the weekend.

Mark Berman contributed to this report, which has been updated.