The Latest: Freeway closed as Southern California fire rages

Motorists on Highway 101 watch flames from the Thomas fire leap above the roadway north of Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. As many as fi

A mansion that survived a wildfire sits on a hilltop in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. A dangerous new wildfire erupted

Flames from the Thomas fire burn above a truck on Highway 101 north of Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Getty Center is seen after a wildfire swept through Los Angeles' Bel Air neighborhood Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. The Getty Center, the $1 billion ho

Crystal Shore look over the wildfire damaged neighbors home along Via San Anselmo in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo

Wildfire survivors Marolyn Romero-Sim left, and Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, middle, and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sit inside the evacuation cent

Flames from the Thomas fire burn above traffic on Highway 101 north of Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A firefighter mops up at a home consumed by a wildfire in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. A dangerous new wildfire erupte

The Getty Center lies shrouded in smoke as seen from the Bel Air district of Los Angeles after the Skirball wildfire swept through Wednesday, Dec. 6,

The Getty Center lies shrouded in smoke as seen from Casiano Road in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles after the Skirball wildfire swept through, We

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on Southern California wildfires (all times local):

5:15 a.m.

Authorities have closed a major freeway as flames from the largest and most destructive Southern California wildfire churn toward coastal and mountain communities northwest of Los Angeles.

Calmer overnight winds Thursday helped crews protect the Ventura County resort town of Ojai (OH'hi), where most of the 7,000 residents are under evacuation orders.

The National Weather Service says a more favorable wind forecast still calls for potentially dangerous gusts, but ones not likely not to approach historic levels they'd feared.

Officials closed U.S. 101 for more than a dozen miles along the coast, cutting off a major route between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as fire charred heavy brush along lanes.

Thousands of homes remain threatened by at least four major Southern California wildfires that have destroyed structures and sent residents fleeing.