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Los Angeles - A rapidly growing wildfire, stoked by strong wind gusts, in the foothills north of Los Angeles threatened hundreds of homes on Monday and forced nearby residents and students at a small college to evacuate, fire and school officials said. 

More than 600 households in Ventura County, California, about 70 miles (115 km) northwest of Los Angeles, were told to leave as the 5 000-acre wildfire, known as the Thomas Fire, burned dry brush, Ventura County officials said on Twitter.  

"We're really just trying to catch it around the edges and just pinching it off as quickly as we possibly can," Ventura County firefighter Jason Hodge told the Los Angeles Times.

Strong winds were pushing the fire toward the cities of Santa Paula and Ventura, where about 140 000 people live, the Ventura County officials said. 

The fire was stoked by wind gusts of up to 70 mph (115 km/h) that were expected to remain in the area along with low humidity through the week, the National Weather Service forecast.    

At least two structures were destroyed by the fire, media reported. 

The 390 students at Thomas Aquinas College were evacuated as a precaution, the school said on Twitter. 

Evacuation centers were opened at a high school and the county fairgrounds, media reported.