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Strong Aftershock Causes Little Damage in County : Impact: The 5.0 temblor further jangles residents’ nerves and may have caused a garage fire in Thousand Oaks.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 5.0 aftershock that jolted Ventura County residents awake at 3:20 a.m. Saturday caused little physical damage around the county, police and fire officials said.

With the area finally settling back into a routine, the American Red Cross announced Saturday that it will close the Piru School shelter after breakfast this morning and move the Simi Valley service center Monday morning. The center, now at Sycamore Drive Community Center at 1692 Sycamore Drive, will move to 1494 Madera Road, Suite B.

In place of the Piru shelter, the Red Cross will set up a feeding site at an as yet undecided location, officials said.

The one reported incident of physical damage involved a garage fire in Thousand Oaks, a blaze that fire officials said may be linked to the early morning temblor.

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Neighbors on El Cerrito Drive heard an explosion just before 4:30 a.m., then saw flames coming from a garage and called the Fire Department, said Frank Whealon, a friend of the family that owns the residence. The family was on vacation in Lake Tahoe when the fire began, he said.

The fire appears to have started when a water heater pulled away from the wall--possibly as a result of the earthquake--and knocked loose a gas pipe, Whealon said. Gas from the pipe may have drifted to the heater’s pilot light, causing an explosion and igniting the fire, he said.

The fire damaged the garage and an upstairs bedroom, Whealon said. Fire officials estimated the damage at about $20,000.

Otherwise, most county residents said they suffered more emotional disturbance than physical damage from the aftershock.

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“They just won’t stop--they just keep on going,” said Devon French, 21, a Simi Valley resident, of the thousands of aftershocks that have hit the area since the magnitude 6.6 quake Jan. 17. “We ran outside the house again this morning, and then we were up for a good hour. I was really scared.”

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The tremors spurred Francisco Martinez, 32, of Fillmore to spend his morning at the local FEMA relief center, stocking up on canned goods to store in his van. “I just want to have it there in case a stronger one comes,” he said, relaxing with his two young sons on a bench at the center.

He was supposed to spend his morning working at a construction job, but stayed home instead, he said. “I got afraid and didn’t want to leave my family alone,” he said.

Others, however, were more sanguine.

“What are you going to do?” said Ken Ing, owner of a Simi Valley Donut Inn franchise. Ing was frying his doughnuts at the store when the aftershock hit and sent him scurrying back from the stove fire. “It’s an earthquake. Nobody can stop God.”


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