"We believe 100 plus homes have been destroyed," Koon said. "It's our best guess at the moment because it's dark. We're not counting as much as trying to protect the homes."
At Westmont College, a Christian liberal arts college nestled amid wooded rolling hills, some 1,000 students were caught off-guard by the rapidly moving flames.
"It came pretty fast," said Tyler Rollema, a 19-year-old sophomore who was eating dinner in the cafeteria when students were told to head to the gym. "We came out and it was just blazing."
Thousands of feet above the flames, footage shot from television helicopters showed what initially looked like a massive campfire with dozens of glowing embers. When cameras zoomed in, however, what appeared to be flaring coals turned out to be houses — many of them sprawling estates — gutted by flame. Palm trees were lit like burning matches.