Ojai officials said it was “a miracle” that fierce Santa Ana winds had subsided on Thursday, as firefighters battled wildfires that have encircled the mountain community and continued to burn largely untamed on surrounding ridgelines.
“The fire burned hard overnight on slopes about four miles north of town,” Rudy Livingston, Ojai’s finance director, said. “But fire crews with bulldozers and fire engines … were able to reduce fuel, calm the flames and keep them from coming downhill into town.”
“It was truly a miracle that the predicted fierce winds failed to materialize — we were waiting for them, but they didn’t come,” he said. “All I can say is, ‘Thank God.’ If they come, it would be very ugly here.”
On Wednesday night, the wildfire raced westward along mountains north of town, forming an eerie bright orange line of flames several miles long. Just to the south of Ojai city limits, fire crews were attacking smoldering hot spots with water and hand tools.
Fire authorities expanded mandatory evacuation zones on the east of the Ojai Valley during the night, and evacuated Ojai Valley Community Hospital.
Weather conditions favored the firefighters Thursday, with winds of eight to 18 miles per hour, and the city’s core remains under voluntary evacuation orders Thursday morning.
Capt. John Clingingsmith, a public information officer with Cal Fire, said the biggest concern Thursday will be the La Conchita and Ojai areas. There is a significant amount of fuel in those areas, so though the winds are lower there — 20-30 mph — there’s more fuel to burn.