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Camarillo brush fire: New evacs ordered, 8K acres burned

May 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A fast-moving brush fire burned out of control in Ventura County, scorching more than 8,000 acres and forcing residents from their homes Thursday.

The fire was at 10 percent containment by 7 p.m.

New mandatory evacuations were ordered shortly before 8 p.m. in Sycamore Canyon and the La Jolla and Broome Ranch areas.

Pacific Coast Highway has also been closed again. Yerba Buena and Deer Creek roads in Malibu are also closed. The fire reportedly reached PCH at about 9:30 p.m.

Mandatory evacuations were lifted just after 6:30 p.m. for Camarillo Springs, the Dos Vientos area and the Cal State University Channel Islands area, the Ventura County Sheriff said. Only residents are allowed to access those areas; they are advised to have identification on-hand.

According to the Ventura County Sheriff, Cypress Elementary, Sycamore Canyon School and Cal State University Channel Islands will be closed Friday.

Several RVs and a boat in a storage lot were destroyed. One home has reportedly been destroyed in a remote canyon area. The home may be abandoned. Overall, 2,000 residences have been threatened and 15 have sustained damage.

The fire started around 6:45 a.m. near the Camarillo Springs Road exit off the 101 Freeway and was burning quickly in steep terrain. Tom Kruschke of Ventura County Fire said the fire, dubbed the Springs Fire, burned between Camarillo and Newbury Park and was moving quickly to the south toward the ocean. With the high winds, hot weather, low humidity and dry brush, Kruschke said it was the perfect storm for a wildfire.

"This all adds up to this fast-moving and erratic fire we''re experiencing right now," he said.

Firefighters were able to keep the fire from burning any homes in Camarillo Springs, and a big part of that was because the community has a "green belt" around it and brush clearance.

Nearly 600 firefighters are at the scene battling flames. Embers are creating the biggest problem for fire crews because they can travel about a mile ahead of the fire.

"We're experiencing spotting in some of these urban areas even though they aren't directly connected to the wild land and the brush fuels," Kruschke said.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for Dos Vientos, Camarillo Springs, Cal State University Channel Islands, Sycamore Canyon Elementary and Potrero Road from Sycamore Canyon to Pacific Coast Highway. Rancho Sierra Vista and Sycamore Canyon are closed.

Heavy smoke covered the entire campus of Cal State Channel Islands. About 5,000 students who attend the university were told to take Lewis Road when they evacuated, and many stopped about a mile away to watch a hillside that went up in flames, hoping that their campus will be OK.

"I just jammed out, you know? I was pretty panicky," said one student.

CSU Channel Islands will remain closed Thursday and Friday, and all classes and activities were canceled. Fire crews are in place for structure protection if flames get too close.

Part of an agriculture facility on the campus of Cal State Channel Islands was heavily damaged by the fire. Officials urged people in the area to leave over concern about pesticides and other chemicals burning in the fire.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued an advisory for Friday, saying the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive individuals in the Santa Clarita Valley. People with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory disease were advised to minimize outdoor activities.

Pacific Coast Highway was closed between Yerba Buena and Las Posas for a short time, but has since reopened. Two right lanes on the southbound 101 Freeway were also temporarily shut down near Camarillo Springs Road in the morning hours but has since reopened.

Authorities are urging residents who are in evacuation zones to heed orders and leave immediately. The Red Cross has set up shelters for residents at Thousand Oaks Community Park, 2525 N. Moorpark Rd., and Calvary Community Chapel, 380 Mobil Ave.

Small animals may be taken to either Red Cross shelter, Ventura County Animal Control in Camarillo or Los Angeles County Animal Control in Agoura Hills. Large animals may be brought to Ventura CountyFairgrounds. Residents who need more information can call Ventura County fire officials at (805) 388-4276.


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