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California wildfires: 28,000 acres burned in Ventura County

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The wildfire burning through Ventura County has scorched 28,000 acres, and firefighters have only 20% of the blaze surrounded, officials said.

The Ventura County Fire Department said the air attack would end at sunset and the Springs fire would be attacked by ground crews. "Barring unusual events, we do not expect to receive any new updates on the fire until tomorrow morning," authorities said in a statement.

Elsewhere in Southern California, firefighters quickly knocked down brush fires that threatened homes in Glendale and the San Gabriel Valley suburb of Walnut.

Glendale officials credited the clearing of flammable brush and a decisive airborne attack from water-dropping helicopters as critical in gaining the upper hand on that 75-acre blaze, which scorched the Chevy Chase Canyon area north of the 134 Freeway.

"We hit it quickly," Glendale spokesman Tom Lorenz said. The city's firefighters, Lorenz said, had been preparing and planning for brush fires due to the recent high winds.

Los Angeles County firefighters took an hour to knock down a five-acre fire that threatened homes in the the 600 block of North Silver Valley Trail in Walnut, a suburb of 30,000 near Diamond Bar.

"We sent the world," said fire inspector Quvondo Johnson. "We've got approximately 200 firefighters -- air, ground, the whole works. ... We didn't play."

In Ventura County, flames have come within 100 feet of multimillion-dollar homes in the Hidden Valley area, nestled in the mountains south of Thousand Oaks. The area includes numerous luxury ranch homes, including many with stables housing horses and other animals.

By 6:30 p.m. Friday, the scene had calmed considerably on Hidden Valley Road.

A small number of apparent residents continued to trickle out of the homes, but most of the vehicular traffic on the road was from fire and law enforcement personnel. Though some trees were visibly burning and others were smoldering off the main road, and occasional hot spots lined the hillside, visible fire activity had died down considerably with one exception.

At least four fire engines were parked atop a vast winding driveway fighting flames that had engulfed majestic green trees about 100 yards behind a sprawling estate.

As the fire creeped closer to the house with its residents watching from the front driveway, firefighters moved up the hill using massive hoses and what sounded like chainsaws.

As of 7:10 p.m., the flames had disappeared behind the trees and the only thing visible was a massive plume of smoke.

A set of about a dozen firefighters walked single file down the house’s driveway, into their vehicles and drove back onto the main road.

The fire Friday scorched the rugged terrain between Pacific Coast Highway and the 101 Freeway. More than 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft flying through thick smoke to drop water and flame retardant.

Residents in Hidden Valley and off Portrero Road have been ordered to evacuate. Evacuations in Sycamore Canyon, Deer Canyon and Yerba Buena remained in effect, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash said.

Nick Schuler, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's San Diego division, said the homes most susceptible are those that haven't regularly cleared brush hundreds of feet away from their home as county firefighters suggest.

In addition to the 1,000-plus firefighters on the scene, Schuler said hundreds more are en route to the area. Cal Fire said 4,000 homes and 300 commercial properties have been threatened, with 15 residences, 15 outbuildings and five commercial properties damaged.

On Friday afternoon, a shift in winds sent the blaze roaring inland, placing some homes that had escaped the first wave of flames again in the fire's path.

Sue Martin and Coleman Trainor thought the danger has passed Shelburne Farm on Portrero Road, but then they noticed the winds change. When the neighboring ranch began evacuating animals about 2 p.m., they decided they should start to make plans for the 20 horses stabled on their own property.

They worried how they would transport so many animals -- but then the trailers starting rolling in. Complete strangers showed up at the ranch, offering their help.

“This is our third load,” said Lisa Riley, who helped take the horses to a Moorpark equestrian center. “We do this for them because they need the help, and I’m sure they’d do it for us.”

Trainor, who is from Virginia, had never seen a wildfire before. “It’s been really exciting to see the collaboration and assistance from people we don’t even know,” he said. “All of that has helped contribute to a successful evacuation. And now we’ve gotta go.”

Residents hurried to pack cars and evacuate animals as the fire again moved toward their homes. In the Rancho Sierra Vista area, helicopters hurried to drop water on a burning ridge as neighbors in the nearby Banyan neighborhood readied to leave.

Laurie Deremer, 58, looked at the flames and smoke peeking over the ridge. "Well, this looks a little ominous here," she said. 

A neighbor, Bobbie Quigley, had already loaded her car with a small filing cabinet full of pictures and a safe with documents and address books. A pile of blankets sat next to her car and she readied to pack more valuables.

Quigley, 71, said she could hear people driving up Potrero Road behind her house all night to get a glimpse of the fires. People also sat on her back wall to get a better look.

She could barely sleep, she said, but finally caught some rest about 4 a.m. When she woke up at 6 a.m., she said, "it was all very calm."

The evacuation orders came hours later.

Shari Bernath didn't leave her ranch off Mipolomoi Road, despite orders Thursday night and Friday to evacuate. The flames climbed the mountain toward her home, eventually reaching one of her barns and creeping within 100 yards of her home.

By about 3 p.m., the flames were in the distance and the view was replaced with the gray and black smoke of a danger that had moved elsewhere.

"There's a lot of relief," Bernath said. "We could still burn. But there's a lot of relief."

ALSO:

Glendale fire nearly knocked down; Walnut fire out

Wildfires slow commutes in north Los Angeles County

California wildfires: Fires in Riverside and San Diego break out

matt.stevens@latimes.com

hailey.branson@latimes.com

dalina.castellanos@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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