Tens of thousands in Southern California went to bed uneasy or not at all late Wednesday as fire officials warned of powerful winds overnight that could whip up a series of wildfires.

The national weather service was predicting near hurricane-force winds for Thursday morning in the mountains and canyons of Ventura County and northwest Los Angeles County — winds that make for rapid, unpredictable fire spreading, officials said.

Late Wednesday, fire officials ordered new evacuations affecting several thousand people as the massive Thomas fire encroached upon the the town of Ojai, an arts community with an upscale, rustic charm northwest of Los Angeles.

Several fires also menaced the nation's second largest city, including a 450-acre blaze that burned several multimillion-dollar mansions in the tony Bel-Air neighborhood and threatened the Getty Center arts complex and its priceless collection. 

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The so-called Skirball fire forced officials earlier Wednesday to close down part of Interstate 405 — a key north-south artery.

"These are days that break your heart. But these are also days that show the resilience of our city," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, thanking firefighters from Los Angeles and other agencies and all city personnel.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who had earlier declared a state of emergency in Ventura, was monitoring the Los Angeles fire while hundreds of homeowners in Bel-Air and the nearby Sherman Oaks neighborhood joined the tens of thousands of other Southern California residents who have already fled the infernos that have scorched more than 83,000 acres and reduced scores of homes and businesses to ashes, NBC Los Angeles reported.


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