Brush fires burned across parched hillsides in three Southern California counties Tuesday, briefly threatening homes in Walnut and Camarillo and scorching at least 2,700 acres at Camp Pendleton.
The wildfires came as the region basked under sunny skies and warm weather after experiencing gloomy conditions and lower-than-normal temperatures for much of July.
“This was our first warm day,” said Ventura County Fire Department Capt. Ron Oatman.
In the Camarillo and Walnut blazes, fire officials credited aggressive tactics and vigilant brush clearance by residents with helping crews beat back flames. Firefighters were also aided by light westerly breezes that were much cooler than dry northeasterly Santa Ana winds that traditionally propel fires later in the year.
Officials traced the origin of the Camarillo blaze to a homeless encampment near expensive hillside homes along North Loop Drive, Oatman said. Investigators had not determined whether the fire was intentionally set.
Residents of about 55 homes in the Highlands neighborhood of Camarillo and the nearby community of Somis were under a voluntary evacuation order as about 300 firefighters and water-dropping helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft battled the fire at its peak.
“Good old-fashioned, aggressive firefighting” helped crews gain the upper hand, Oatman said.
Steven Sherrick watched from his home in the 200 block of North Loop Drive as planes and copters made repeated drops on flames scorching a nearby ridge.
“They pulled out everything,” he said of the firefighters. “We don’t see any more flames.”
By Thursday evening, the evacuation order was lifted and the fire was 60% contained, officials said. Full containment was expected about noon Wednesday. Oatman said one firefighter suffered an ankle injury.
In Los Angeles County, firefighters quickly doused a blaze that burned to the edge of several homes near Crystal Peak Circle and Skyline Drive in Walnut. The fire started in West Covina and raced up a ridge into neighboring Walnut.
At the height of the fire, which broke out about 5:30 p.m., residents in 24 homes were evacuated, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
“A lot of properties had defensible space,” Fire Inspector Frederic Stowers said as hand crews were cutting a line around the fire’s perimeter.
Ground crews, engine companies and water-dropping helicopters contained the blaze about an hour after it started. The cause was under investigation. One West Covina firefighter received minor injuries.
In San Diego County, the brush fire at Camp Pendleton was 60% contained as of Tuesday evening, officials said. It was sparked by a training exercise and broke out in the Aliso Canyon area of the sprawling base about 9:30 a.m.
The fire was being fought by camp fire crews, U.S. Forest Service strike teams and three helicopters.
Times staff writers Corina Knoll and Tony Perry contributed to this report.