Woman, 70, is California fire death victim

AP Photo/Gregory Bull Dick Marsala looks through debris from his destroyed home after a wildfire roared through the Rancho Monserate Country Club Friday in Bonsall, Calif. The wind-swept blazes have forced tens of thousands of evacuations and destroyed dozens of homes in Southern California.

FALLBROOK, Calif. (AP) — Authorities have confirmed the death of a 70-year-old woman who was fleeing a massive Southern California wildfire.

The Ventura County medical examiner says Virginia Pesola of Santa Paula was killed in a car crash along an evacuation route Wednesday night.

The cause of death announced Friday was blunt force trauma with terminal smoke inhalation and burns.

Pesola’s death is the first connected to six wildfires ravaging the region. She was found in a car in Wheeler Canyon in Santa Paula. The area northwest of Los Angeles was threatened by a wind-whipped blaze that erupted Monday and has destroyed hundreds of homes.

The California wildfires drove retirees from a mobile home park north of San Diego with only minutes to spare.

Ferocious winds whipped sparks into massive infernos that have destroyed more than 500 buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee from their homes.

The flames have burned nearly 250 square miles since Monday.

Fire sprang up so quickly that many who managed to escape unscathed did so with little more than the clothes on their backs. Three people were burned trying to escape.

Some residents have returned to the ruins of homes they fled when a wind-driven wildfire roared through northern San Diego County.

Retirees Dick and Joan Marsala found the wreckage of their mobile home still smoldering Friday morning.

Their daughter, Misty Sherman, says her parents had spent 11 years in their dream home at Monserate Country Club.