By AMANDA LEE MYERS and JOHN ROGERS
VENTURA, Calif. (AP) - The flames and smoke seemed to come out of nowhere, barely giving residents of the Southern California beach community of Ventura time to grab important papers and a beloved family pet before fleeing for their lives.
When thousands of evacuees began returning Tuesday after a wildfire had charred 70 square miles (181 square kilometers), they found at least 150 structures, many of them homes, had burned to the ground.
Others, sometimes just next door, had survived.
David Rensin and his wife were among the lucky ones, learning Tuesday they had a home to go back to.
Two blocks away, John and Linda Keasler were not. They had watched helplessly the night before as their three-story, ocean-view apartment building burned down.
Still, the Keaslers and others were grateful that no one died.
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