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More than 200,000 residents evacuated as Woolsey fire rages out of control

More than 200,000 residents evacuated as Woolsey fire rages out of control
Llamas are tied to a lifeguard stand on the beach in Malibu as the Woolsey fire approaches. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

As the Woolsey fire raged Friday, more than 200,000 residents in Ventura and Los Angeles counties were ordered to evacuate.

“This fire is moving quickly. Conditions are changing rapidly,” said Sgt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office during an afternoon news conference at the Thousand Oaks command center.

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The blaze had grown to 35,000 acres by 4 p.m. Officials said that they did not know how many structures have been destroyed but that damage was extensive. No deaths were reported.

Thousand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox said three-quarters of the city’s residents, many of whom were still reeling from the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting, were asked to leave their homes.

The mayor noted that the shooting, in which 12 people and the gunman died, was a “permanent crisis.”

“Those lives will never be recovered,” he said. But in the aftermath of the fire, he said, homes can be rebuilt. Property can be reacquired.

Topanga Canyon was the latest area to be evacuated, officials said. Large swaths of the 101 Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway continued to be closed, with traffic being funneled westbound on the 10 Freeway into Santa Monica.

The wind had died down by the afternoon, said L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby, and there is expected to be a lull in major gusts Saturday. But winds are expected to intensify significantly Sunday, so residents must remain vigilant, he said.

The chief urged people to obey evacuation orders. Attempts to protect homes were hampered in some instances Friday because residents had not evacuated, Osby said.

“I can only imagine the impact of being asked to leave your home,” he said. “But we’re doing it for your safety.”

Fire personnel confronted a host of challenges Friday, including a shortage in resources as fires were being fought across the state. Some firefighting aircraft were forced to land because of low visibility and significant winds.

The nearby Hill fire is holding at 6,000 acres, and personnel are making good progress there, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.

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