Firefighter battles Springs Fire

L.A. County firefighters battle hot spots from the Springs fire in the mountains above Malibu. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / May 3, 2013)

A shift in the wind has quickly limited the visibility for firefighters trying to battle the Springs fire, which has destroyed more than 10,000 acres in Ventura County and continues to burn out of control.

Television footage from media helicopters shows huge flames climbing a hillside and approaching at least two homes.

Nick Shuler, a battalion chief with Cal Fire out of San Diego, said embers from the fire have blown across Pacific Coast Highway and ignited vegetation on the south side of the highway, threatening the far western point of a naval base, where a Seabee station is located, and scorching plants and trees.

PHOTOS: Camarillo brush fire

Officials at the Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu ordered a mandatory evacuation of some housing out of precaution, according to its Facebook page.

Thick plumes of black smoke are hovering over the mountains and providing a new challenge for firefighters. In neighborhoods near the fire line, ash dropped on car windshields as the sky turned dark.

It’s unclear if the limited visibility will ground more than a dozen aircraft helping firefighters battle the blaze, he said.

MAP: Southland fires

Weather forecasters predicted that a shift in the wind Friday afternoon would possibly aid firefighters in limiting its spread into the Ventura County forest.

The Ventura County Air Pollution Control District issued an air quality advisory Friday, warning that the "smoke and ash from wildfires is considered to be unhealthy in and downwind of the wildfires." Residents in affected areas were advised to remain indoors as much as possible, keep windows and doors closed, and avoid "vigorous outdoor or indoor exertion."

Anyone seeking additional information about evacuations or road closures can call a Springs fire hotline at (805) 388-4276.

As the fire continued Friday, officials kept an eye on the weather forecast. On Thursday, single-digit humidity, temperatures in the high 90s and wind gusts of more than 40 mph fed the blaze as it ate up dry, decades-old brush.

Forecasters said the winds will not be as strong Friday, but other conditions are similar. The humidity near the fire dropped from 58% to 28% in an hour and is expected to be under 10%, said National Weather Service meteorologist Curt Kaplan.

Temperatures will climb into the 90s while wind gusts of up to 30 mph will continue to feed the flames, he said.

An ocean breeze is expected to hit the face of the fire by afternoon.

Late Thursday night, Ed and Kate Cruz were among the many gawkers drawn by intentionally set backfires in the mountains. The family lives nearby and hikes there several times a week. So for them, watching the controlled burn was like watching a favorite treehouse burn.

“Picnic oak," Kate said, in reference to "an oak tree we like that goes perfectly over a picnic table. It’s just beautiful. Beautiful birds, owls, wolves.

"It’s a sad day.”

Her husband was more blunt.

“This place is going to be a lunar landscape tomorrow morning,” Ed Cruz said. "Making the backfire this big -- they will burn the entire canyon."

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