updated 1/22/2007 10:31:13 PM ET 2007-01-23T03:31:13

A fire driven by Santa Ana winds threatened 20 homes as it spread over several acres of brush Monday, officials said.

Mild winds were blowing the fire uphill in steep terrain, said Ventura County Fire Capt. Barry Parker.

A helicopter was dropping water over the area of modern homes, many set amid hills on cul-de-sacs, and 200 firefighters were on the lines, officials said.

The blaze broke out as “red flag” warnings were posted for fire danger due to gusty offshore winds and low humidity in the region.

Thousand Oaks, a city of 127,000, is about 40 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

Parker characterized the wind as a “mild Santa Ana,” a type of wind that blows toward the coast, pushing back the normal flow of moist air from the Pacific.

The Ventura County Fire Department closed its fire season Jan. 15, citing a forecast of reduced potential for major wildfires. Closing the fire season involves changes in work schedules and equipment.

Just last week, rare snow fell in the nearby Santa Monica Mountains.

A wind-driven brush fire roared through an exclusive beachside area in Malibu this month, destroying five homes, including one belonging to actress Suzanne Somers, and damaging six. Losses were estimated at $60 million.

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