Multiple fires are raging in Southern California. A series of Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires have destroyed hundreds of structures, forced thousands to flee and smothered the region with smoke in what officials predicted would be a pitched battle for days.

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Ventura fire

Ventura residents return to retrieve their essentials, but find devastation

 (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Tom and Jenny DiCiolli pulled up to their Ventura home Wednesday afternoon only to find mounds of rubble and ash. 

They had learned about the condition of their home last night after a coworker walking through the neighborhood surveyed the damage. 

“It’s sad,” said Jenny DiCiolli, 63. “It would be one thing if it was just a couple houses.” 

“It’s devastating,” her husband said. “A lot of communities and a lot of lives have been changed.”

Tom DiCiolli said the couple had been asleep for about an hour on Monday night when they were told to evacuate. 

“You wake up to this and you have only 15 minutes to consider what to take,” the 63-year-old said. 

Jenny grabbed the documents for the house and birth certificates while he grabbed his computer and some photo albums — something his wife hadn’t realized. 

“You took them?” she asked, surprised. “I was crying over them.” 

Tom DiCiolli called the experience a “very surreal event.” The hills behind them were scorched black, and their neighbors’ homes on both sides were also burned. All that remained was their singed chimney, their washer and dryer, and a brand new fence the neighbor had just installed. 

“I don’t think we’re banking on finding anything,” he said. “So any memorable item, from a blanket to a pendant” would be nice.

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