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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 10:02 am | Overcast 58º


Camarillo Springs Fire Spreads to 28,000 Acres and Growing

Santa Barbara County joins crews nearly 1,000-strong in battling the blaze estimated at 20 percent contained; further evacuations are ordered

Firefighters are busy working to contain the Springs Fire in Camarillo, which had grown to 28,000 acres by Friday evening.

Map of area burned by the Springs Fire, which has charred more than 18,000 acres near Camarillo. (Ventura County Fire Department map)
Map of area burned by the Springs Fire, which has charred more than 18,000 acres near Camarillo. (Ventura County Fire Department map) Click here to see the updated map.

Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash said the fire is burning out of control and burning furiously.

As of 4:16 p.m., the Springs Fire was estimated to be burning 18,000 acres — or 28 square miles — with 20 percent containment.

Nash said crews are trying to get a containment line in front of the fire to stop it from growing.

“We did have a change in wind direction today, and now the fire is being pushed back toward the Newbury Park area,” he said.

Evacuations are required all along Potrero Road from Reino Road to Trentwood Drive, as of 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Hand crews were protecting homes and cutting containment lines with tools and bulldozers as the fire reached the Pacific Coast Highway late Thursday. By Friday morning, 24 hours after the fire started near the Conejo grade on Highway 101, there were 954 people working to fight the fire, with more en route.

The Pacific Coast Highway remains closed to traffic in both directions, and many cross streets are also closed.

Agencies across Southern California sent resources to help, including 15 engines from departments and fire protection districts within Santa Barbara County. The air attack includes eight water-dropping helicopters and six fixed-wing air tankers dropping flame retardant.

There have been no firefighter or civilian injuries reported.

By Thursday morning, the number of threatened homes doubled to 4,000, with 15 damaged but none destroyed. The air attack, which stopped at night, began again after sunrise.

“We have helicopters and tankers. I don’t know how many yet; I’m just glad we’ve got them,” Nash said. “They’re a huge tool for us. If we had to put firefighters on those hills it would be just incredibly dangerous.”

Highway 101 remains open in both directions but Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, is closed and will remain closed indefinitely since the fire is burning right along it and firefighting activity is using it, Nash said.

The department issued immediate evacuations for the south side of Potrero Road from Reino Road east to 930 W. Potrero Road, including Hidden Valley Road, early Friday afternoon.

Camarillo Springs and Dos Vientos have reopened to residents, but other evacuation orders remain in effect: Sycamore Canyon, Deer Creek and Yerba Buena neighborhoods, and the California State University-Channel Islands campus. All classes and other activities were canceled for Friday, though residents were allowed back in to the adjacent University Glen neighborhood, where many faculty and staff live.

The university is assessing its buildings, exchanging air in buildings and conducting safety inspections of the grounds, spokeswoman Nancy Covarrubias Gill said. The earliest the campus would be open — with access to the library, dining services and student housing — is tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, she said Friday afternoon.

“This is a very large fire that burns fast and fierce, and we want residents anywhere in the fire area to remain vigilant,” Nash said.

Just because the main body of the fire passed an area Thursday doesn’t mean it won’t be back, especially with wind changes, he noted.

Camarillo Springs Fire from Michael Furukawa on Vimeo.

“Listen to the radio, watch TV and check the websites regularly,” Nash said. “Stay informed and stay vigilant.”

Thirty people stayed overnight at the Red Cross shelters set up at the Thousand Oaks Community Center, 2525 N. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks, and Calvary Community Chapel, 380 Mobil Ave. in Camarillo, the Ventura County Star reported.

The Red Cross opened a third shelter at Malibu High School at 30215 Morning View Driver and all three offer food, water and shelter for those who had to leave their neighborhoods. The organization also has a Wildfire App, available for free in both English and Spanish, which has a “Blaze Tracker” to alert people when fires come close to where they live, travel or have loved ones.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the fire,” Jim McGee, regional chief executive officer for the Red Cross serving Ventura County, said in a statement Friday. “The Red Cross has trained volunteers ready to help those in need.”

Daytime temperatures could reach 100 degrees in Camarillo on Friday with low humidity and gusty winds expected, which could contribute to the fire spreading, according to the National Weather Service.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the County Air Pollution Control District issued an air quality warning on Friday to be in effect through the weekend because of the Springs Fire smoke. An air quality watch had been issued Thursday.

Officials encourage residents with heart or lung disease, as well as older adults and children, to limit time spent outdoors. They also suggest avoiding outdoor exercise when high concentrations of dust and particles are in the air, which will vary depending on containment of the fire and changes in winds.

The National Weather Service has a red flag warning issued for the Ventura County and Los Angeles County areas because of gusty winds and low humidity, and the warning has been expanded through 5 p.m. Friday.

The Ventura County Air Pollution Control District said the strong Santa Ana winds are causing particle levels in the air to reach unhealthy levels.

Everyone should avoid unnecessary or vigorous outdoor activities, run air conditioners with the fresh air intake closed, and keep windows and doors closed unless it’s extremely hot inside, it said in a statement.

The Santa Barbara County Operational Area — all fire agencies within the county — sent a combined 15 engines and about 65 people to the Springs Fire on Thursday morning. That included engines from Santa Barbara City Fire, the Montecito Fire Protection District, the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District, Lompoc Fire, Santa Maria Fire and 10 Santa Barbara County Fire engines. County Fire also sent one of its bulldozers to the fire.

The Montecito Fire Protection District sent an additional engine early Friday morning. This engine is maintained specifically for the Office of Emergency Services, and it will join four other OES engines at the scene to form another strike team: five pieces of the same equipment with one leader, the district said in a statement. Both of its engines will be working on structure defense.

“This fire spread quickly due to high temperatures, low humidities, high winds, and was exacerbated by early season dry vegetation,” the district said in a statement. “This made for a trifecta of dangerous conditions. Montecito residents should take this time, while we do not have all of these conditions present, to evaluate their preparedness levels.”

Its Ready! Set! Go! Program urges residents to create defensible space around their homes, review evacuation plans and leave early in the event of a wildfire.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

The Springs Fire in Camarillo continued to rage at dusk Thursday evening. (Michael Furukawa photo)
The Springs Fire in Camarillo continued to rage at dusk Thursday evening. (Michael Furukawa photo)

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