The winds subsided and the flames subdued Wednesday, but Kristy Cantrall left the garden hose on the roof of her Santa Paula townhome, just in case.
The Thomas fire was just a half-mile away from her cul-de-sac neighborhood on Vela Court late Tuesday, prompting neighbors to climb up to their roofs and spray them down with hoses. Helicopters hovered above, dropping buckets of fire retardant on eucalyptus trees that had caught fire just north of the neighborhood.
Cantrall’s son Colin drove from Simi Valley to water down his mother’s home.
Fire crews are preparing to defend Ojai — the bucolic mountain town known as a haven for spiritual seekers, health enthusiasts and celebrities — from the fast-moving blaze that destroyed portions of Ventura, an official said Wednesday afternoon.
“The fire is here and wrapped around the community,” said Shane Lauderdale, a Cal Fire branch director as he huddled with other officials in a downtown parking lot.
With a map of the Ojai Valley spread over the hood of a crew vehicle and ashes falling around him, Lauderdale said that more equipment and firefighters are being rushed into the area south and east of the town.
While campus is safe, traffic continues to prevent many from reaching UCLA. Classes beginning on or after noon are canceled. Students should check with instructors about making up class time or work. As conditions change, we will have more this afternoon. https://t.co/tV2Twtirn2
Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Josh Rubenstein said drivers seeking alternate routes between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside are getting stuck in traffic on winding, hilly streets in the fire area, which could pose a danger to themselves and to firefighters.
“It’s getting all jammed up in there,” he said. “They’re deep into the evacuation area.”
He urged drivers to stay away from the area bounded by the 405 Freeway, Sunset Boulevard, Mulholland Drive and Roscomare Road, where a mandatory evacuation order has been in place since Wednesday morning.
#SkirballFire update: As we evacuate our Chalon Campus due to ongoing power outages, we are making shuttles available for students, faculty and staff without vehicles. For those who are driving off campus, please do so safely and pay attention for road closures and detours. 2/2
Jackson Rogow, 24, woke up at 6 a.m. to the smell of smoke and the wail of sirens. He ran outside in his boxer shorts, and saw his neighbors on Bellagio Road standing in the street and packing their cars. The moon was blood red.
He turned on the news, and saw aerial footage of his eight-unit apartment building from a helicopter monitoring the Skirball fire. He turned to his girlfriend and said, “We should pack.”
By 7 a.m., fire trucks were racing up and down the street, apparently trying to get as close to the fire as possible, Rogow said. He waved to one truck and shouted, “Should I leave?” A firefighter gave him a thumbs-up, he said, but he wasn’t sure what that meant.
The Skirball fire burning in Bel-Air destroyed at least four, and possibly six, houses on Casiano Road and Moraga Drive on Wednesday, officials said.
More than 350 firefighters, 52 engines and six fixed-wing aircraft are battling the blaze from the north, west and east. The crews will have relatively cool temperatures in the 50s and 60s, but also low humidity and winds stronger than 25 miles per hour.
“Our greatest threat is — and will always continue to be — the wind,” Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.