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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 12:28 pm | Fair and Breezy 61º


Wind-Driven Wildfire Prompts Highway 101 Closure, Evacuations in Camarillo Area

Hill Fire blackens 5,000 to 7,000 acres in Ventura County, threatens structures; Ventura, LA county fight Woolsey Fire south of Simi Valley

wildfire burning near Highway 101 in Camarillo. Click to view larger
Flames from the Hill Fire in Ventura County jumped Highway 101 Thursday afternoon and burned an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 acres.  (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

This story was most recently updated at 8:24 a.m. Friday.

A wind-driven vegetation fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in Ventura County prompted authorities to close Highway 101 south of Camarillo and order evacuations.

The fire, which continued to burn late into the night, was reported in the Hill Canyon area of Santa Rosa Valley at about 2 p.m., and quickly charred thousands of acres and jumped Highway 101, which was closed in the area, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Highway 101 was shut down in both directions between State Route 23 in Thousand Oaks and State Route 34 in Camarillo, according to Caltrans District 7.

Closures were in effect most of the night, but as of 7:30 a.m., northbound lanes had reopened.

However, a second blaze, the Woolsey Fire, caused a two-way closure of Highway 101 in the Agoura Hills area Friday morning, according to the California Highway Patrol. 

The Camarillo-area fire, dubbed the Hill Fire, was fed by 25- to 30-mph winds that pushed flames across Highway 101 and toward Pacific Coast Highway, Ventura County Firespokesman Mike Lindbery said Thursday night.

Point Mugu Naval Air Station and a communications array on Laguna Peak were in the fire’s path, he added.

The Ventura County Fire Department estimated the blaze had burned 5,000 to 7,000 acres, a smaller number than an afternoon estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 acres.

flames near highway Click to view larger
Flames from the Hill Fire burn on both side of Highway 101 over the Conejo Grade Thursday as motorists make their way through the eerie scene. The freeway was shut down. Note that this photo was taken during the daytime. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

The blaze damaged and destroyed structures, outbuildings and vehicles as of Thursday night, but the fire was moving so quickly that agencies had not yet done any damage assessment, Lindbery said in a statement.

As of Thursday night, evacuations were ordered in Camarillo Springs, CSU Channel Islands, Vallecito Mobile Home Park, and the Dos Vientos community. CSU Channel Islands and many Ventura County school districts decided to cancel classes Friday. 

One firefighter was transported to the hospital with a minor injury, Lindbery said.

Additional information is available at the Ventura County emergency page, www.VCEmergency.com, or by calling 805.465.6650 for updates on road closures, evacuation perimeters and shelters.

Evacuation centers were set up at the Borchard Community Center, 190 Reino Road in Newbury Park; the Camarillo Community Center at 1605 East Burnley St.; and Rancho Santa Susana Recreation Center at 5005 Unit C, Los Angeles Ave. in Simi Valley, according to the Red Cross Ventura County chapter. 

The Ventura County Star reported structures were threatened by the Hill Fire, which was burning the same areas affected by the 2013 Springs Fire. 

A Santa Barbara County fire truck doing structure protection at the Hill Fire in Camarillo. Click to view larger
A Santa Barbara County fire truck doing structure protection at the Hill Fire in Camarillo Thursday afternoon. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department sent a strike team including several brush trucks and a battalion chief to the scene, to assist the firefighting effort, Capt. Dave Zaniboni said.

Other local fire agencies also sent teams to Ventura County, including the Montecito and Carpinteria-Summerland departments. 

Ventura and Los Angeles county officials on Thursday also were dealing with a second incident — the Woolsey Fire — that was burning in Woolsey Canyon east of Simi Valley.

That blaze broke out at about 2:20 p.m. and had charred more than 8,000 acres and threatened hundreds of structures as of 2 a.m. Friday.

Containment was at 0 percent.

The Ventura County Fire Department said Friday morning that "many" homes were lost to flames in that blaze, but a tally was not available.

An estimated 75,000 people were in mandatory or voluntary evacuation areas as of Friday morning.

It was being fanned by strong Santa Ana winds, and also had prompted evacuations.

Executive editor Tom Bolton contributed reporting to this story.

Noozhawk managing editor 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.

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