Citizens ordered to evacuate their homes in the San Diego area

by Stephanie Stanton
NBC News

Nearly a quarter of a million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes in the San Diego area as high winds continue to feed over a dozen wildfires burning in southern California.

From Santa Barbara to the Mexican border, southern California has become an inferno.

More than a dozen major wildfires have destroyed homes, killed one person, and forced the evacuation of thousands.

"Because of the erratic nature of these winds the fire can go in any direction," warned Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

It all began in the ultra-exclusive beach side community of Malibu Sunday morning.

Gusts of 50-60 miles an hour whipped up flames that may have started with downed power lines.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for much of southern California.

This morning he surveyed the damage in Malibu, which included several homes, a castle and a church.

"Tens of thousands of acres have burned, thousands of buildings have been threatened.  We've been evacuating residents in harm's way, and extremely dangerous heavy winds and dry conditions make it very very hard to get this fires under control," Schwarzenegger said.

In San Diego County the entire city of Ramona is under evacuation orders and the world famous San Diego Wild Animal Park is threatened, along with hundreds of its exotic animals.

Firefighters don't expect much relief today from the hot, dry, windy conditions.