Calabasas fire is 80% contained

A fire in the hills of Calabasas that broke out Saturday and prompted evacuations and burned more than 500 acres is 80% contained, officials said Sunday. 

The fire, which broke out shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday, damaged one home and destroyed one commercial building, fire officials said. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries and a third a cardiac incident, which officials did not elaborate on.

All evacuation orders and road closures were expected to be lifted by 6 p.m. Sunday, officials said. 

The fast-moving fire had forced the mandatory evacuation of thousands of residents who live in the Topanga Canyon and Mulholland Highway area around Calabasas. Most of the residents were allowed to return home Sunday.

Several hundred firefighters continued early Sunday to battle the blaze, dubbed the Old Fire, according to fire officials. Crews hiked into the hills in 90-degree heat to find and extinguish hot spots over a “messy” patchwork burn area, said Inspector Randall Wright with the Los Angeles County Fire Department

“Humidity is around 15% and we have about 5 miles an hour of wind, so the weather’s cooperating a bit,” Wright said. 

The fire had charred several power poles and knocked out power to 681 homes in the area Saturday evening, said Southern California Edison spokesman Robert Villegas. Power was restored to all but two homes by Sunday morning. 

Officials said at a Sunday morning news conference that three firefighters were hurt battling the blaze and that some of those asked to evacuate Saturday must remain out of the area because conditions remain too dangerous. 

Firefighters are still trying to identify what commercial building was destroyed by the fire. The damage to the two homes was minor. Officials praised aggressive brush clearance by residents for preventing more damage.

Helicopters made repeated drops on hot spots, drawing water from Lake Calabasas, a man-made lake in the midst of a private development. 

Fire officials said much of vegetation and brush had not burned in more than 70 years. Multiple years of drought left the mature brush extremely dry and ready to burn.

The blaze was actually three fires that began about 4 p.m. Saturday and eventually merged into one large fire, officials said. One of the fires is believed to have started when a pickup truck struck a power pole in the 2300 block of Mulholland Highway. 

Shari Davis was watching the television news Saturday as reporters said that much of Mountains Restoration Trust land used by her new summer day camp was scorched. Davis, who along with her husband owns and operates Camp Wildcraft, said, “I am kind of in despair at the moment.”

“It looks like the whole area could be destroyed,” Davis said. 

More than 50 children were set to arrive at the camp next week, and Davis said she was composing an email to parents letting them know that the camp might need to make alternate plans. 

“This was the first camp we were starting and everything was going so well with so much excitement and enthusiasm,” she said.  “We need to figure out a way to move ahead.”

The three-day heat wave oppressing many of the inland valleys and foothills of Southern California was expected to let up on Sunday.

Since Thursday, a ridge of high pressure has warmed Southern California, prompting weather officials to warn of an enhanced heat risk on Saturday. Cooler temperatures were expected Sunday throughout the region, the National Weather Service said.

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The Southland heat wave did not produced any records, but Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard called the temperatures “significantly above normal,” 10 to 20 degrees higher than average in many areas.

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garrett.therolf@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @gtherolf


UPDATES:

4 p.m. This post was updated with new information regarding containment. 

10:56 a.m: This post was updated with new details about acreage burned and the number of firefighters on scene.

8:27 a.m.: This post was updated with details from press conference.

6:44 a.m.:  This post was updated with new details overnight.

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