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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 4:06 am | Fair 39º


Wind-Driven Camarillo Blaze Surges to 8,000 Acres

Homes are evacuated as hundreds of firefighters battle fire near Camarillo; Highway 1 closed at Las Posas Road

Map of area burned by the Springs Fire, which has charred more than 6,500 acres near Camarillo. (Ventura County Fire Department map)
Map of area burned by the Springs Fire, which has charred more than 8,000 acres near Camarillo. (Ventura County Fire Department map) Click here to see the updated map.

An army of firefighters was being hampered by high temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds Thursday while battling a brush fire that has consumed more than 8,000 acres in Ventura County.

The fire was being pushed west toward the Pacific Ocean and was expected to grow quickly due to the weather conditions, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

It reached Pacific Coast Highway by 10 p.m. but the road had been shut down since late morning.

“Right now, we’re kind of at Mother Nature’s mercy … with high winds, high heat and low humidity, it’s very dynamic and fast-moving,” public information officer Tom Kruschke said early Thursday afternoon.

About 925 firefighters are on the scene, and the the Fire Department has many other agencies sending resources.

As of 7:30 p.m., the fire had grown to 8,000 acres and was 10 percent contained.

No homes were destroyed, but 2,000 were threatened and 15 were damaged. The road closures and evacuations have spread, and now evacuations are mandatory in Sycamore Canyon, La Jolla Canyon and Broome Ranch. Residents with identification are being allowed back into the Dos Vientos area.

Yerba Buena Road and Deer Creek Road are also closed to all vehicles.

As of 6 p.m., there were 96 fire engines, six helicopters, dozens of hand crews and three fixed-wing aircraft for the Camarillo Springs fire.

Fixed-wing firefighting aircraft were grounded earlier Thursday due to weather conditions, but helicopters were still battling the blaze, fire officials said.

The fire started near Highway 101 on the Conejo Grade, and was initially reported as one acre, but the flames quickly moved uphill, driven by windy conditions.

Camarillo Springs Fire from Michael Furukawa on Vimeo.

There have been evacuations in the Dos Vientos and Camarillo Springs areas, as well as a full evacuation of the California State University, Channel Islands campus. The campus will remain closed through Friday, with all classes and other activities cancelled.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the County Air Pollution Control District issued an Air Quality Watch Thursday evening to be in effect until further notice from the Springs Fire smoke. They 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 fire was still raging at dusk Thursday evening. (Michael Furukawa photo)
The fire was still raging at dusk Thursday evening. (Michael Furukawa photo)

A smoke advisory was also issued for the smoke coming from burning agricultural buildings near CSU Channel Islands, and the Ventura County Fire Department said anyone still in the area should evacuate and “make all efforts to avoid the smoke.” The Ventura County Star reported that the buildings contained some chemicals, so the incident turned into a hazardous materials response.

The National Weather Service had already issued wind advisories and a red flag warning 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.

Gusts between 40 and 50 miles per hour are expected in areas as far west as Ventura County’s Coast; That along with high temperatures – NOAA expects a low of 59 degrees Thursday night and a high of 89 Friday in Camarillo – “will create an extremely high fire danger.”

As of 5:20 p.m., authorities said the fire isn’t contained, but appears to be holding at 6,500 acres. There has been damage to structures and no evacuations have been lifted, the Ventura County Star reported.

This is the time to be prepared and quickly comply with evacuation orders, Kruschke said.

“If you feel threatened, leave. If your health conditions aren’t good, leave the area.”

Highway 1 has been shut down between Las Posas Road and the Ventura-Los Angeles county line, according to the CHP.

Highway 101 remains open in both directions over the Conejo Grade, the CHP said.

Smoke enshrouds the campus of Cal State Channel Islands, which was evacuated Thursday due to a wind-driven wildfire raging nearby. (KEYT News photo)
Smoke enshrouds the campus of Cal State Channel Islands, which was evacuated Thursday due to a wind-driven wildfire raging nearby. (KEYT News photo)

Evacuation centers have been set up at Thousand Oaks Community Center, 2525 N. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks, and Calvary Community Chapel, 380 Mobil Ave, in Camarillo.

The Santa Barbara County Operational Area — made up of all fire agencies within the county — sent a combined 15 engines and 63 or 65 firefighters down to Camarillo to assist in the firefight, County Fire Department information officer Vince Agapito said.

“At this point, we’re not sending any air support, but things change literally minute by minute. As of this morning we hadn’t sent down any helicopters to assist.”

Santa Barbara agencies have full coverage at all fire stations, even with the resources sent South, he added.

Fire agencies from across Southern California, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, ambulance companies, the American Red Cross and many other agencies are helping with the effort, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

About 30 CSUCI administrators hunkered down in the Emergency Operations Center, located in the University Hall on campus, director of communications and marketing Nancy Covarrubias Gill said.

They decided to keep the campus closed Thursday afternoon and evening, and also keep it closed all of Friday, May 3. Students who live on campus and University Glen residents have to stay off campus, and can find food and shelter at the Red Cross shelter at Calvary Community Chapel, Gill said.

There were 3,000 to 4,000 students on campus Thursday morning — one of the busier days for the university — and everyone was able to leave in an orderly fashion once the evacuation orders came through, she said.

For the 1,000 students who live on campus, administrators suggested they go home or go with a friend, and only 15 had to be taken to the Red Cross shelter in Camarillo.

University police went door-to-door in University Glen — where many faculty and staff members live — and asked people to evacuate there, as well.

As of 9 p.m., the University Glen has been reopened to residents only, though student housing villages and campus remain closed through Friday, Gill said.

“I’m glad we asked everyone to leave this morning when it was precautionary,” she said. In early afternoon, the fire actually made it to the campus but almost everyone was gone. Twenty fire engines responded to the campus for structure protection, according to Ventura County Fire. 

The roads near CSUSI have been closed to everyone but emergency vehicles, so Gill and the others must stay at the EOC until further notice. As of 7 p.m., some campus personnel were able to leave, but others chose to stay and monitor the situation, she said.

“We’re considered emergency responders, so we all came here to start taking care of business,” she said. For updates, students, parents and community members can check the school’s website or call the emergency updates line at 805.437.3911.

Check back for updates to this story.

Click here for ongoing coverage of the fire from the Ventura County Star.

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.

A fire burning near Camarillo in Ventura County has charred more than 6,500 acres and forced evacuations of homes and Cal State Channel Islands. (John Palminteri / KEYT photo)
A fire burning near Camarillo in Ventura County has charred more than 6,500 acres and forced evacuations of homes and Cal State Channel Islands. (John Palminteri / KEYT photo)

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