Ventura County brush fires: Homes go up in flames in Thousand Oaks, Oak Park area

Ventura County brush fires: Homes go up in flames in Thousand Oaks, Oak Park area
Large fires threaten Ventura County communities; 101 Freeway closed, more than 1,000 homes evacuated – Los Ang
Firefighters worked through the night to protect homes in the path of a fast-moving wildfire that tore through hillside brush in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, riding strong wind gusts through neighborhoods and across a major Southern California freeway. 

The Woolsey fires forced evacuations in communities northwest of Los Angeles after it began Thursday afternoon amid warm, dry and windy conditions. The fire is threatening about 30,000 homes Friday morning as strong winds cast embers that ignited smaller spot fires and pushed the fire across Highway 101 in the Agoura Hills area.

Woolsey Fire: 75,000 Homes Evacuated Along Ventura-L.A. County Line as Massive Wind-Driven Blaze Rages

“The wind-whipped conditions … this is ripe conditions for explosive fire behavior,” said LAFD Capt. Erik Scott. “This is the new normal. When we have conditions like this, when its such incredible wind, that brings us in to a different caliber, so its become a much more challenging condition.”

A Los Angeles County Fire Department battalion chief told NBC4 the flames could burn “for days.” 

Video: WATCH LIVE: Aerials of the Ventura County Hill Fire, 8 and 10 thousand acres have burned

Several Homes Burned, Thousands More Threatened as Woolsey Fire Threatens to Jump 101 Freeway

Firefighters faced difficult conditions as strong overnight winds fanned flames that burned homes in a Thousand Oaks neighborhood on Whiteside Place. John Cadiz Klemack reports for Today in LA on Friday Nov. 9, 2018.

Many homes have been destroyed, but firefighters did not have a firm number Friday morning as wind continued to push flames toward the south.

“The winds havent died down, and thats unfortunate,” said NBC4 forecaster Shanna Mendiola. “Winds are gusting anywhere between 40 to 50 mph, strong enough to carry theses embers. We do expect these winds to die down, but not completely go away.”

The fires are burning in a community that was already reeling from a mass shooting that left 12 victims dead Wednesday night at a Thousand Oaks bar. The Thousand Oaks Teen Center was a family unification center Thursday, a place where families anxiously waited for updates on loved ones who were at the Borderline Bar. On Friday, the center was an evacuation center for people fleeing the fire. 

By early Friday, the Woolsey fire burning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties burned 8,000 acres, was zero percent contained and damaged multiple structures. About 75,000 homes in the two counties are under evacuation orders, according to Los Angeles County Fire.

“I think a lot of people should realize this is what your valuable life leads to,” said a man from Ventura County as he pointed at his truck. “Plastic bags on the back of your pick-up truck.”

Along with assisting the growth of the fire, the high winds also deterred air support in battling the flames.

Not only has the Woolsey Fire forced evacuations, it also caused transformers to explode at homes. Toni Guinyard reports for NBC4 News on Nov. 9, 2018.

The Woolsey Fire was first reported around 3:30 p.m. and by 4:45 p.m. It started east of Chatsworth near a former Rocketdyne facility.

Fall is historically one of the most dangerous times of the year for wildfires in California. Seven of the states 10-most destructive wildfires occurred in October — many fueled by monster winds, including Santa Ana gusts.

Through Nov. 4, Cal Fire has reported about 5,600 fires that burned more than 621,700 acres. During that same period last year, the agency reported 5,800 fire that burned 316,600 acres. Over the last five years, California has averaged 5,293 fires that burned 231,400 acres during that interval.

Two separate wildfires prompted the evacuations of hundreds of homes and injured at least one firefighter in Ventura County Thursday, even as the community was reeling from a mass shooting in nearby Thousand Oaks the night before.

The Hill Fire, which ignited in Newbury Park just after 2 p.m. and quickly scorched thousands of acres, has led to the evacuations of 1,200 homes in the Camarillo Springs and Dos Vientos areas, county emergency officials said via Twitter.

Fire erupts in southern Calif., only miles from location of tragic Thousand Oaks shooting

The Woolsey Fire, which broke out just a short while after in the area of Rocketdyne, has burned more than 1,000 acres and prompted mandatory evacuations in the community of Bell Canyon.

The fires also prompted the closure of the 101 Freeway in both directions, according to the California Highway Patrol. Southbound lanes were closed from SR-34 (Lewis Road) to Wendy Drive, northbound from SR-23 to Pleasant Valley Road.

Southern California fires force evacuation of 75,000 homes

KQEDs John Sepulvado and Hope McKenney shared images of the flames rising in the distance as the wind whipped smoke and dust into the air. Sepulvado has been contributing to KPCC/LAists coverage of a shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill that left 13 people dead late Thursday night.

“In the most 2018 moment of 2018, we cant get to the memorial for the shooting victims because a wildfire has cut off the 101 north of Thousand Oaks,” Sepulvado tweeted.

@JohnLGC and I are now on our way to cover the Ventura County fires. Highway closed, hills ablaze, and people being evacuated. @KQEDnews @CalReportTweets pic.twitter.com/wQl1qZ0mQ1

In the most 2018 moment of 2018, we cant get to the memorial for the shooting victims because a wildfire has cut off the 101 north of Thousand Oaks. We tried to take a farm road so we wouldnt get stuck. Didnt work. pic.twitter.com/SkzviVWcMg

Wind driving 10000-acre brush fire toward ocean

The Hill Fire has so far burned between 5,000 and 7,000 acres, a number that was revised down from earlier estimates that put it closer to 10,000 acres.

At some point, an apparatus operator sustained a minor injury, according to Ventura County Fire Assistant Chief Chad Cook, who spoke at an evening press conference.

As many as 500 firefighters were on scene as of 7:30 p.m., with more expected to arrive for overnight operations. They face difficult conditions, with low humidity and fierce Santa Ana winds, according to VCFD Chief Mark Lorenzen, who also spoke at the press conference.

Santa Ana winds fuel Hill, Woolsey fires in Southern California as evacuations expand

The fire has been driven by 20-30 mph winds, and with gusts expected to reach up to 50 mph on ridge tops by morning, the fire has the potential to sweep all the way to the ocean, Lorenzen said.

Emergency officials had been prepared for the worst. Ventura County firefighters coordinated with neighboring counties and cities and the National Weather Service, prepositioning their resources, but they were still outpaced by the fire.

Within 12 minutes of ignition, flames had jumped the 101 Freeway at the top of the Conejo Grade near the truck scales, Lorenzen said.

Fixed-wing aircraft were used to drop retardant nearby to protect the vehicles stuck on the road, and some motorists had to shelter in place before firefighters were able to help them evacuate, he said.

No civilians have been reported injured. Cook credited their community notification technologies, including reverse 911 and VC Alert, with getting the message out and people evacuated quickly.

Long Beach Fire Department strike team sent to battle Hill Fire in Ventura • Long Beach Post

No structures have been confirmed lost, though a number of recreational vehicles and outbuildings were damaged or destroyed in Camarillo Springs and at the west end of Newbury Park, Lorenzen said.

The Hill Fires two flanks are pushing on the one hand toward the Cal State Channel Islands campus and homes along Potrero Road and into the Broom Ranch subdivision, and on the other toward naval installations, including a communication tower for Point Mugu Naval Air Station set up on Laguna Peak.

Hill Fire Grows to Thousands of Acres Near Newbury Park, Evacuations Underway

“I would say we are not out of the woods when it comes to assessed evaluation and threat thats out in front of this fire,” Cook said.

Map: Brush fires threaten SoCal communities

The fire was still active on both sides of the 101 freeway, which Cook said would likely be closed long into the night.

Heres a Hill Fire, Woolsey Fire evacuation map, list of shelters

Firefighters will be assisted from above by at least four water-dropping helicopters that can operate at night.

California State University Channel Islands issued a campus evacuation order because of poor air quality and said classes and student activities would be canceled until further notice.

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