Wildfire near Ventura-LA county line burns 8,000 acres

LOS ANGELES - Some 75,000 homes have been evacuated along the Ventura-Los Angeles County line as a massive fire raged early Friday amid strong winds.

Woolsey Fire erupted around 2:30 p.m. Thursday near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory south of Simi Valley and exploded to 2,000 acres by 6 p.m. Just before 3 a.m., L.A. County Fire Department said the fire had scorched about 8,000 acres. It was 0 percent contained.

Earlier, Ventura County officials said 30,000 people had been evacuated. No injuries have been reported so far.

As of 3 a.m., VCemergency.com said the following areas were under mandatory evacuation:

  • Bell Canyon – Saddlebow Rd. between Maverick Ln. and Morgan Rd
  • Oak Park – entire community
  • Thousand Oaks – Thousand Oaks Boulevard north to Sunset Hills, from Oak Park west to Highway 23
  • West of Highway 23 – south of E. Olsen Road, north of Pederson Road
  • South of Bard Lake, east of Highway 23
  • South of Highway 101, east of Reino Rd., north of Potrero Rd., east to the L.A./Ventura County line

Other evacuations:

  • Westlake Village (per Malibu Search and Rescue Team at 2:51 a.m.)
  • A portion of Calabasas (click here for a map)
  • Previously announced evacuations in Hidden Hills and in the city of Los Angeles have been downgraded from mandatory to voluntary, L.A. Fire Capt. Erik Scott said at 2:27 a.m. Click here for a map of the voluntary evacuation zone with L.A. city limits

As of 3:20 a.m., the following sites were listed as evacuation centers on VCemergency.com:

  • Thousand Oaks High School – 2323 N. Moorpark Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
  • Rancho Santa Susana Recreation Center – 5005 Unit C Los Angeles Ave. Simi Valley, CA 93063 (no animals accepted)
  • Taft Charter High School (in L.A. County) – 5461 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, CA 91364
  • Hansen Dam Equestrian Center – 11127 Orcas Avenue, Lake View Terrace, CA 91342 (accepting large animals)

As of 3:20 a.m., the following road closures were listed on VCemergency.com:

  • Potrero Road closed between Rancho Dos Vientos and S. Lewis Road
  • 101 northbound closed between Highway 23 and Lewis Road
  • 101 southbound closed between Borchard and Lewis Road
  • 118 eastbound closed at Kuehner Drive

At least 30 homes were swallowed by flames, aerial footage from Sky5 showed.

Tina Weeks told KTLA she feared her home on Lafitte Drive in the Oak Park area had been destroyed.

“About 10 o’clock tonight, I smelled a lot of smoke,” Weeks said. “I opened my shutters in the dining room and the flames were leaping up about 4 feet from my house.”

Weeks said another fire came close to her home in 2005.

“This is a lot worse. The winds are far worse. It’s just far more widespread,” she said.

The fire, which broke out on 25000 Woolsey Canyon Road, was being pushed in a southwest direction by a 45 mph wind out of the north. Sky5 footage early Friday showed power apparently going off and on in the area.

Responders already had their hands full with another fire that started about half an hour before in Thousand Oaks,  a few miles from the site of a bar shooting that left 13 people dead. That blaze, called the Hill Fire, also prompted evacuations and closures on the 101 Freeway. It had burned about 5,000 to 7,000 acres, officials said at 8 p.m. Thursday.

The fires flared up amid a red flag warning for Santa Ana winds in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. The southwest portion of Caifornia experienced gusts up to 50 to 70 mph, the National Weather Service said Friday night. Relative humidity was expected to drop into the single digits.

Fire officials initially issued voluntary evacuation orders for neighborhoods in the northeast section of the Oak Park neighborhood about 10 p.m, which became mandatory evacuations about an hour later as the fire continued to grow.

By midnight, the Los Angeles Fire Department issued mandatory evacuation orders in their city.

Fire officials held a news conference Thursday evening where Assistant Chief Chad Cook said multiple agencies are responding to the Woolsey Fire, saying the fires had “greatly taxed our resources.” Cook said fire crews do have the ability to fly firefighting aircraft at night.

Los Angeles city and county firefighters were helping Ventura County with the Woolsey Fire.

A shelter was initially set up at Oak Park High School, but had to be shut down Thursday night as flames approached.

The city of Calabasas released a statement around 5 p.m. saying, “At this moment, there is no threat to the City of Calabasas; HOWEVER, if the Fire Department does not get a handle on this fire (which does have a rapid rate of spread), it could potentially impact the cities of Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, and Hidden Hills in about 3 hours.”

The initial area where the fire was reported is near the former Rocketdyne facility. The Santa Susana Field Laboratory facility was used for development and testing of rocket technology for the space program from 1949 to 2006, nuclear reactors from 1953 to 1980, and liquid metals research from 1966 to 1998, according to a report from the Department of Energy. The site ceased operations in 2006 and has been the subject of environmental concerns in that area for years.

The site was in the news earlier in 2018 after a 7-year-old girl died of neuroblastoma, according to the Simi Valley Acorn. The girl’s mother said the girl was exposed to contaminated runoff from the facility, prompting protesters to demand a major cleanup at the site.

Read more on KTLA.com.