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Wildfire forces evacuations in Calif.

LOS ANGELES — A wildfire fanned by gusty Santa Ana winds raged along the fringes of Southern California communities Thursday, forcing the evacuation of homes and a university while setting recreational vehicles ablaze.

The blaze erupted during morning rush hour along US 101 in the Camarillo area, about 50 miles west of Los Angeles. It was quickly spread by the winds, which also pushed other blazes across the region.

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The evacuation orders included the smoke-choked campus of California State University, Channel Islands, attended by about 5,000 students.

Flames quickly moved down slopes toward subdivisions, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. More than 10 square miles were charred, with no containment. A cluster of RVs in a parking lot was destroyed as flames moved close to a mobile home park. There were no reports of homes burning.

More than 500 firefighters from multiple agencies with help from aircraft dropping water and retardant worked to protect numerous homes around Camarillo Springs Golf Course and in a section of adjacent Thousand Oaks.

Air tankers had to be grounded in early afternoon because of the winds, which gusted to 50 miles per hour.

‘‘We’re at Mother Nature's mercy right now,’’ county fire spokesman Tom Kruschke told a television station.

The winds sent plumes of smoke and embers over the homes and strawberry fields to the south. At midday, farm sheds burst into flames.

The vegetation-withering dry winds out of the northeast caused humidity levels to plunge from 80 percent to single digits in less than an hour. Temperatures soared into the 90s in Camarillo.

The blazes could signal a difficult fire season ahead.

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