Fast-moving Calif. brush fire explodes to at least 10,000 acres, triggering evacuations and power outages

LOS ANGELES — A fast-moving, wind-fueled California brush fire exploded to at least 10,000 acres Monday night in the foothills near Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula and triggered mandatory evacuations of hundreds of homes, officials said.

One person was reported killed in a traffic accident on a road closed due to the fire.

Strong winds were pushing the blaze in a southwest direction toward the cities of Santa Paula and Ventura, leading to new evacuations of homes north of Foothill Road in Ventura and reports of power outages.

Shortly after 10 p.m., Richard Macklin, a Ventura County fire engineer, was on the phone with a news outlet when his fire station in Santa Paula went dark.

“We have power now,” Macklin said about 10:20 p.m. “I got lights, I don’t know how they’re providing it.”

Other residents in Ventura and Santa Paula reported outages, though it was not immediately clear how widespread the blackouts were.

Authorities were also evacuating homes east of Dickenson Road, north of Monte Vista Drive along Highway 150 and south of the college. As of 9 p.m., it was unclear if any residences were damaged by the uncontained blaze. The fire was burning on both sides of the highway.

“We’re really just trying to catch it around the edges and just pinch it off as quickly as we possibly can,” said Ventura County firefighter Jason Hodge, adding that crews were dealing with 25 to 50 mph winds. “That’s what’s driving this fire. So it’s a challenge, but everybody’s out there working hard and will be through the night.”

Since shortly before 7 p.m., firefighters were in place to protect homes along Highway 150 just north of Santa Paula, said Ventura County Fire Capt. Stan Ziegler. Within an hour, the fire grew from 50 to 500 acres.

Evacuation centers were opened at Nordhoff High School in Ojai and at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura.

Four helicopters were going to begin making water drops after crews determined that it was safe to fly as the blaze grew rapidly.

About 9:30 p.m., two helicopters were forced to land at Santa Paula Airport due to 50-mph winds. “Waiting for winds to slow down so we can get back in the fight,” officials said on Twitter.

“It’s always difficult and somewhat dangerous to fly at night, so depending on different conditions and the geographic challenges is how they evaluate whether or not they can operate at night,” Hodge said.

Ventura County Fire staffed an extra 100 or so firefighters in anticipation of strong winds that triggered a red flag warning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Weather officials said those regions could see wind gusts of 50 to 70 mph Monday night into Tuesday.

The blaze was reported about 6:25 p.m.

“This is exactly what we have prepared for,” Ziegler said. “This is not a surprise by any means.”California

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City College union deal staves off layoffs, class cuts

One year agreement allows community college time to improve its finances

A Homeless Outreach Team member speaks with homeless people along Jones Street in the Tenderloin on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Breed proposes another street outreach team to divert calls away from police

San Francisco would launch a new street outreach team to respond to… Continue reading

Chelsea Hung, who owns Washington Bakery and Restaurant in Chinatown with her mother, said the restaurant is only making about 30 percent of pre-pandemic revenues. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chinatown’s slow recovery has business owners fearing for the future

Lack of outside visitors threatens to push neighborhood into ‘downward spiral’

A worker sets up irrigation lines to water almond tree rootstocks along Road 36 in Tulare, Calif. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Gov. Gavin Newsom extends drought emergency to 41 California counties

Faith E. Pinho Los Angeles Times In a stark indication of California’s… Continue reading

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new stimulus plan on Monday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner file photo)
More Californians would get new $600 stimulus checks from the state under Newsom plan

Sophia Bollag The Sacramento Bee Two-thirds of Californians would get an extra… Continue reading

Most Read