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Highway 101 Traffic Flowing Again as Crews Gain Upper Hand on Solimar Fire

Arcing power lines blamed for wind-driven blaze near Ventura; fire 70% contained Saturday night, evacuations lifted

Southbound traffic is backed up Saturday afternoon on Highway 101, shortly after the freeway was reopened between Carpinteria and Ventura. The Solimar Fire had forced the closure of the freeway between Bates Road in Carpinteria and Highway 33 in Ventura.
Southbound traffic is backed up Saturday afternoon on Highway 101, shortly after the freeway was reopened between Carpinteria and Ventura. The Solimar Fire had forced the closure of the freeway between Bates Road in Carpinteria and Highway 33 in Ventura. (Ryan Cullom photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery. Scroll down to watch video of the fire.]

Firefighters gained the upper hand Saturday on a wind-whipped vegetation fire that broke out the previous night above Highway 101 between Carpinteria and Ventura.

The Solimar Fire, which was blamed on arcing power lines, was 70-percent contained Sunday morning after charring 1,236 acres, and prompting evacuations and a 14-hour closure of Highway 101, Ventura County fire officials said.

Gusty winds Friday night pushed power lines together on private oil company property, sending sparks into the dry brush and touching off the blaze, officials said. The name of the company was not released.

After Caltrans crews inspected charred medians and signs Saturday, freeway traffic was allowed to begin flowing again shortly before 2 p.m., according to the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

One lane was to remain closed for use by emergency responders.

Northbound Highway 101 traffic in Carpinteria remained heavy Saturday, hours after the freeway to Ventura was reopened. Click to view larger
Northbound Highway 101 traffic in Carpinteria remained heavy Saturday, hours after the freeway to Ventura was reopened. (Ryan Cullom photo)

There were two flare-ups overnight Saturday, officials said. One was well within the burn area, and the other was a 2-acre spot fire outside the containment lines.

Both were quickly knocked down.

Sections of Pacific Coast Highway, which runs parallel to the freeway, remained closed through the afternoon, but the road was reopened at 5 p.m.

The Solimar Fire broke out at about 11 p.m. Friday in the hills above Highway 101. Winds gusting to 50 mph quickly pushed the flames downhill toward the freeway and homes along Solimar Beach.

Two firefighters sustained minor injuries fighting the fire, one to a knee and another to an ankle.

All evacuation orders were lifted as of Saturday evening, but the campground at Emma Wood State Beach remained closed, officials said.

Some 400 fire personnel remained assigned to the blaze, along with one helicopter.

During the Highway 101 closure, traffic had been diverted to Highways 33 and 150, rural roads that were reported to be bumper-to-bumper in many areas due to the added load.

Other traffic was being detoured to Highway 166 between Santa Maria and Interstate 5.

Forecasters were calling for much more favorable weather conditions Saturday night — an overnight low of 37 degrees with 30-percent humidity and winds of only about 7 mph.

Officials estimated it would be three days before the fire was completely controlled.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

(Noozhawk video)

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