Nearly 200 firefighters were called out Saturday to battle a 30-acre blaze above Camarillo Springs Golf Course set by two teen-agers trying to keep warm on an early-morning hike, officials said.
The 16-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl, both of Camarillo, were hiking over rough, rocky terrain in the mountains near the golf course when a campfire they set to keep warm quickly blazed out of control, said Bill Little, a security supervisor at the golf course.
Little, who apprehended the juveniles and turned them over to sheriff's deputies for questioning, said the pair initially tried to put out the flames, but soon gave up and scrambled down the steep mountain side to safety.
"They were very nice kids--they looked like they came from good families," he said. "The little girl was hysterical. She was hyperventilating--just a mess."
Fire officials said the youths--whose names were not released because of their ages--were cited for setting an illegal campfire and for trespassing on private property and then released. Their parents may be handed a bill for some or all of the firefighters' efforts, officials said.
The blaze was contained by late afternoon, firefighters said, but they did not expect to gain full control until today because of 10 m.p.h. winds coming from the east that continued to whip up the flames.
Little said he noticed plumes of smoke rising from the mountainside about 8:10 a.m. Soon afterward, he saw two figures racing down the slope, he said. Little and fellow security guard Michael Crone met the boy and girl as they came off the mountain.
"The boy was pretty distracted about the whole thing," Crone said. "He didn't want the girl to get involved. He said it was his whole responsibility.
"They were really upset about it," Crone said. "She kept asking over and over if they were going to get in trouble."
It took firefighters more than an hour to maneuver through the rough and steep terrain and get the first hand crew in position to fight the flames, authorities said.
Officials also called in two air tankers and three helicopters to aid the 175 crew members on the ground.
One helicopter was diverted in the afternoon to drop sandwiches to exhausted hand crews, some of whom came from as far as San Luis Obispo.
"They've been up there most of the day with chain saws, hand tools and axes trying to cut away the dry brush," Capt. Glenn Garcia said. "It's very steep and very treacherous up there."
As flames darted all morning from the jagged cliffs above the golf course, golfers and residents of a gated community adjoining the course calmly watched firefighters' efforts.
"I've watched it all morning," said Al Bagne, who lives near the golf course. "No, I'm not worried about the fire. There's steep hills right there, a lot of rocks and not much brush."
Firefighters also assured residents that the wind, though strong, was blowing into the hills and away from the structures on the valley floor.
Many locals said the fire served as their alarm clock.
"The first thing I heard when I woke up this morning was helicopters flying overhead," said Clem Sanders, who works at the golf course's pro shop and owns a mobile home nearby. "I thought there must be something wrong around here. They must be chasing someone. Then I went out and looked up and thought, 'Oh, hey, smoke, fire.' "
A golfing foursome hitting the links at about 11:30 a.m. weren't even that concerned.
"Heck, we're just worried it's going to hit the back nine (holes)," joked Michael D'Amico, 26, as he teed off next to mountains spewing white smoke.
By late afternoon, firefighters faced new threats from shifting winds but were holding the line. Also, Fred Baugher, Ventura County battalion chief, said the dry air was not helping. Humidity levels hovered about 10% throughout most of the day.
"Not the best day for a fire," Baugher said. "Of course, no day is good for a fire."
Sommer is a Times staff writer and Mosk is a Times correspondent.