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2 killed, 50 homes lost as Ventura County blazes rage

By   /   Friday, November 9th, 2018  /   No Comments

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A firefighter is silhouetted during the Woolsey Fire in Malibu on Nov. 9.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 10:

The Woolsey blaze doubled overnight, having consumed 70,000 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, according to Cal Fire. The Hill fire has torched about 4,500 acres in Ventura County.

Two fatalities that occurred in the fire areas are under investigation, Los Angeles County Sheriff John Benedict said during a press conference Nov. 10. At least 50 homes were lost in Ventura County, according to the sheriff’s office, and the fires forced 250,000 people to evacuate in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

“Last night was a tough night. Mother Nature has given us a little reprieve today. It’s given us some opportunities,” Mark Lorenzen, Ventura County fire chief, said Nov. 10.

Malibu — home to Hollywood stars including Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman — was evacuated after flames swept south across the Santa Monica Mountains toward the sea and firefighters battled to save Pepperdine University.

It may get worse. Extreme wind conditions are forecast for Nov. 11 for a 2,510-square-mile area including Oxnard, Burbank and Simi Valley, where about 2.5 million people live, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center. The situation is forecast to be critical in a wider area, including Los Angeles and Anaheim, that has a population of more than 20 million.

President Trump, in Paris to celebrate the end of World War I, attributed the spread of the flames to what he called gross mismanagement of the forests.

Southern California Edison said late Nov. 9 that it had a power outage near the vicinity of the suspected starting point for the so-called Woolsey fire, according to a regulatory filing. The utility said that a sensor detected a disturbance in its equipment two minutes before the fire was first reported, according to the filing. Southern California Edison said there had been no determination of origin or cause of the wildfires and the utility will cooperate with the investigation, according to a statement.

There were also reports Nov. 11 of internet outages in East Ventura County because of fire damage.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. Nov. 9:

The Hill fire that broke out Nov. 8 in Thousand Oaks forced the evacuation of more than 45,000 people as it grew to more than 6,100 acres and threatened 437 homes, commercial properties and other infrastructure by the morning of Nov. 9.

Fueled by wind, the blaze roared across Highway 101 and swelled its footprint to thousands of acres in a matter of minutes but diminished as it moved into the footprint of the 2013 Springs fire, allowing firefighters to shift resources to the Woolsey fire, which started near Simi Valley and  burned more than 14,000 acres after it crossed over Highway 101 early Nov. 9.

Evacuations were in force along the Pacific Coast Highway, and Highway 101 remained closed.

Fire officials said some homes have been destroyed but no there have been fatalities or severe injuries so far.

The Ventura County fires broke out the day after a gunman opened fire in a crowded country music bar in Thousand Oaks, killing 12.

“Many of our first responders haven’t slept,” Ventura County Second District Supervisor Linda Parks said during a news conference in Thousand Oaks. “We are still reeling, but we are also very resilient.”

Southern California Edison said it has no indication for the cause of the fire in Ventura, spokesman Robert Laffoon-Villegas said in an emailed statement.

While electrical infrastructure was listed as threatened, officials said that they had not lost any major power line infrastructure through the 101 corridor.

Acting Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for both events and sent a request for direct federal assistance through a presidential emergency declaration.

Ventura County Fourth District Supervisor Peter Foy urged residents in the area to heed evacuation warnings. An estimated 45,000 people remained under evacuation from Point Mugu Naval Base, California State Channel Islands, Camarillo Springs, Vallecito Trailer Park, Dos Vientos and the South Coast area.

Officials said about 85,000 homes were evacuated in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Around 60,000 additional people were expected to be evacuated as the fire moved, said Incident Commander David Richardson.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department was evacuating everyone south of Highway 101 from the Ventura County line to Topanga Canyon Boulevard, which includes basically all of Malibu. Residents were being told to evacuate via the Pacific Coast Highway, not back roads or canyon roads.

Around 2,000 personnel were engaged in the two fires, as well as dozens of engines, helicopters and air tankers as wind allowed. Agencies responded from across Southern California, Richardson said, and officials expected further help to arrive Nov. 9.

The Conejo Valley, Hueneme, Las Virgenes, Mesa Union, Oxnard, Pleasant Valley, Rio and Somis school districts had all closed for the fire, as well as several Ventura County charter schools. CSU Channel Islands was also closed Nov. 9.

Wind conditions were behaving as expected, Richardson said, pushing the fire toward the Pacific Ocean between Highway 23 and Valley Circle south of Highway 118.

The Ventura County Community Foundation has set up the Hill Fire/Woolsey Fire Sudden and Urgent Needs Effort to support the immediate needs of community nonprofit organizations serving those affected by the wildfires.

Those in need of assistance can call Stephanie Bertsch-Merbach at (805) 330-6667.

The developers of the ThomasFireHelp donations and services exchange website said it was fully deployed for the two fires and the Borderline shooting.

The site hosts categories for community members offering housing and places to evacuate animals, volunteers, supply depots where people can pick up and drop off donations, and services such as free moving or cleaning services, architects, attorneys, insurance providers, massage therapists donating their time.

The effort will also coordinate flights with volunteer pilots during the closure of Highway 101 for non-negotiable medical appointments, critical medical employees and responders.

• Contact Marissa Nall at [email protected] Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

 

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