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Weather Helps Make Firefighters’ Day Busier

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Broken water pipes and a spate of fires from Thousand Oaks to Ventura, including a 30-acre brush fire near Simi Valley, kept Ventura County firefighters hopping Sunday.

“Things are just crazy around here right now,” said one county fire dispatcher over the telephone, before hurriedly hanging up to respond to another call.

The near-record low temperatures contributed to the problem, causing water pipes all over the county to freeze and then burst, in come cases flooding homes and schools, fire officials said. Problems with broken water pipes were especially acute in Ojai, where temperatures dipped into the teens and low 20s, fire officials said.

Firefighters can use special pumps to vacuum water in the event of pipe breaks.

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The brush fire, near Black Canyon Road in Santa Susana Knolls just south of Simi Valley, was the county’s biggest fire. It started behind homes in the hilly area but they were never threatened, said Capt. Bill Fontana. More than 50 firefighters needed about three hours to contain the fire, he said. No injuries were reported, and the cause was under investigation.

About four miles to the south, a house on Dapplegray Road in the rural Bell Canyon area was destroyed by a blaze that fire officials said had started with a short circuit in an electronic piano keyboard about 2:40 a.m. Firefighters, who left after dousing the initial fire, were called back shortly before 6 a.m. when flames were rekindled in the attic. Fire officials estimated the damage at $325,000.

A fire broke out in a warehouse owned by the Simi Valley Unified School District about 4 p.m. Sunday. It was the latest in a series of flare-ups that county firefighters have been monitoring since much of the building was destroyed in a Nov. 28 blaze that caused $4 million in damage to supplies, books and records. School officials stored records in the warehouse dating back to the late 1800s.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the warehouse blaze. Its cause is under investigation, authorities said.

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Late Sunday, firefighters contained a house fire fanned by blustery winds in an unincorporated county area north of Camarillo, on Calle Corva at Ramona Drive.

Throughout the day, a series of smaller fires--and false alarms--kept fire crews and dispatchers busy.

In Ventura, city firefighters fought a spectacular morning blaze in the 4600 block of Dean Drive that destroyed the roof of a house. Another roof fire in Thousand Oaks damaged a home on Pamela Wood Street. Damage estimates were not immediately available.

Firefighters also extinguished at least half a dozen other fires.

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In Ojai, water pipes burst at homes and residences, including Grey Gables, a retirement hotel for 85 residents. Broken pipes were reported “all over the facility,” but the problems were taken care of by the hotel’s maintenance crew, said employee Tom Hardcastle. “It was more a nuisance than anything,” he said.

The busy day was the result of “a lot of little things,” said county fire dispatcher Jackie Noel. “We were very busy.”


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