Authorities have ordered more evacuations and firefighters are scrambling to reposition after a 180-degree shift in the winds turned the Springs fire path on a dime, weather experts and fire officials said.
“Some of it pushed back into the main body of the fire, some of it hooked around into the unburned portions and is making runs,” said Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Tom Kruschke.
For a a day and a half, winds had sent a wall of smoke and flames from Camarillo southwest to the ocean with the fire tracing Pacific Coast Highway toward Malibu. But now, the winds have shifted north and northwest, though at a slower clip.
It’s blowing the smoke right into firefighters’ faces, said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist at the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
“It makes it miserable,” said Bill Nash of the Ventura County Fire Department. “It’s hard to see, it’s hard to breathe. What’s really bad is it’s really hard to see distance. Hard to see where you’re going, what’s coming out at you to plan escape routes.”
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, Nash said.
“The bad thing about this fire blowing back like this is, all the homes that were relatively safe after the fire passed yesterday are now in danger again,” he said.
Many of the homes in the area are luxury ranches with animal stables and swimming pools. Some celebrities, including actors Tom Selleck and Jamie Foxx, also live near the evacuation area.
Video on local TV stations showed flames licking at the edge of homes on Yerba Buena Road, the southern edge of the fire. Firefighters abandoned a defensive point on Decker Creek Road farther south, saying the wind shift made it no longer necessary.
Firefighters are repositioning to try to head off the flames from returning to Ventura County homes.
He said it was pretty much a worst-case scenario for firefighters.
More than 4,000 homes remained in danger, Nash said. Eight helicopters and six fix-winged aircraft joined some 1,000 firefighters in battling the blaze. No injuries have been reported and 15 structures have been damaged.