Crews battle to protect homes in case winds shift in Springs fire

A fire engine races along Pacific Coast Highway near Point Dume as smoke blows out to the sea.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Firefighters were using controlled burns late Thursday night to prevent flames from turning back toward homes as a massive wildfire continued to rage out of control in Ventura County.

Fire officials said they were concerned that winds blowing out of the west would push the Springs fire toward homes in the Newbury Park area.

The blaze had scorched at least 8,000 acres after it broke out Thursday morning near the 101 Freeway in Camarillo Springs. As the fire pushed west toward the Pacific Coast, flames damaged at least 15 homes and threatened another 2,000, the Ventura County Fire Department said.


Late Thursday, firefighters were igniting unburned brush along a jagged front in the Santa Monica Mountains south of Potrero Road, officials said.

The area was adjacent to a zone that had been scorched earlier in the day as the Springs fire was fanned by powerful Santa Ana winds, Ventura County sheriff’s Deputy Cyrus Zadeh told the Los Angeles Times.

Crews were also lighting so-called backfires in the Dos Vientos area, hoping to make some headway before warm weather and high winds begin on Friday.

“It’s hot, dirty, unglamorous work right now,” Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash told reporters.

With air operations suspended until the morning, he said, hundreds of firefighters were using chainsaws, shovels, rakes and hose lines attached to fire engines to battle the blaze.

The fire raged down Sycamore Canyon on Thursday night and reached Pacific Coast Highway, which had been shut down for a second time.

At nearby Camp Hess Kramer, 120 children and 30 adults were being evacuated late Thursday.

The fifth-grade children and their adult escorts had been unable to leave because roads were blocked, the department said.

“The fire is getting close to them, so we are coordinating an evacuation,” Deputy Cyrus Zadeh told The Times.

He said seven buses and drivers were donated by Vista Roadrunner. The vehicles would be escorted in and out of the fire zone by deputies in patrol cars.

The campers would be taken to Malibu High School, which opened as an evacuation center.

The hot weather and Santa Ana winds were expected to continue through Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency said wind gusts could reach between 25 mph and 45 mph and temperatures were expected to top out between 90 and 100 degrees. Relative humidity was expected to drop to the single digits.

The agency issued a red flag fire warning, signaling extreme fire danger due to the hot weather, high winds and low relative humidity.


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