VENTURA (AP) — Southern California authorities have ordered evacuations for the first time in Santa Barbara County as crews protect coastal communities from a destructive wildfire that’s steadily marching west and northwest.

A key stretch of U.S. 101 between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties was intermittently closed Thursday as flames jumped lanes.

Residents of 300 homes in the oceanfront city of Carpinteria were ordered to leave before dawn. A few miles down the coast, crews beat back flames creeping down hillsides toward the seaside hamlet of La Conchita, where at least one abandoned structure burned.

In Los Angeles County firefighters are watching for flare-ups as they try to contain three major blazes that have destroyed homes and sent thousands fleeing.

Authorities 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, 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.