A slow-moving brush fire scorched about 120 acres of sparsely vegetated Los Padres National Forest land just north of Ojai Saturday and was expected to burn unchecked into the night, authorities said.
Aided by a virtual absence of wind, Ventura County fire officials projected the fire would be contained by noon today. As night fell, fingers of flame could be seen from downtown Ojai creeping to the east and west along the Topa Topa Mountain ridge.
“It’s still burning at its own leisure,” said Joe Luna, a spokesman with the Ventura County Fire Department. “It’s nowhere near being controlled or contained. . . . It’s progressing along at a moderate clip, not raging or making any big runs to put the fire crews in danger.”
Crews that had spent the daylight hours Saturday cutting fire lines in the Ojai Valley heat were expected to remain on the scene overnight.
The cause of what’s being called the Sunset Fire was under investigation late Saturday.
Three wildfires that remain unsolved and appeared to be the work of a single arsonist were set within a single 24-hour period earlier this year near the small city. Luna declined to speculate on the cause of the latest blaze.
The fire began about 5 p.m. within a half mile of hillside residences near Sunset Place, in the same vicinity as the earlier blazes. The homes, however, were never in any danger, Luna said.
“There weren’t any homes at any time threatened,” he said. “Luckily the wind was blowing away from the homes so the fire just climbed the hill.”
About 150 people fought the blaze, including four U.S. Forest Service hand crews. Two helicopters swooped low over the fire dropping water for much of the evening and were later joined by an air tanker that dispensed fire retardant. In addition, 18 fire engines and a bulldozer were used.
Blazes on the nearly 2,000-foot-high ridge are not uncommon and the relative lack of fuel along with the favorable weather conditions helped retard the ferocity of the fire, officials said.
“It burned a couple of years ago, so there’s not much there to burn,” said George Garcia, a spokesman with the Los Padres National Forest.
City residents had a clear view of the blaze and firefighting activities. Smoke from the fire could be seen as far away as Ventura.