Two new fires in Ventura County force another highway closure, evacuations

Get a helicopter’s view of the Woolsey Fire as it burns through Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway

A Los Angeles County Firehawk helicopter shows the Woolsey Fire along Malibu's Pacific Coast Highway on Nov. 9, 2018.
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A Los Angeles County Firehawk helicopter shows the Woolsey Fire along Malibu's Pacific Coast Highway on Nov. 9, 2018.

While firefighting crews were still busy battling the Woolsey Fire, two new fires broke out in Ventura County, causing officials to close Highway 118 and forcing new evacuations in the Box Canyon and Lake Manor areas.

“It just hits home that we are still in significant fire weather and the existing fire is not our only concern,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen during an 11 a.m. news conference.

The first fire started just after 10 a.m. in the area of Lynn Road, with the second fire starting about 5 minutes later in the Rocky Peak area just south of Highway 118, Lorenzen said. He added that firefighters believe they will soon have containment on the first fire, while the fire near Highway 118 is “probably the fire with the most potential right now.”

By 1:30 p.m., officials had contained the fire near Lynn Road and made progress on the fire near Rocky Peak, according to tweets from the Ventura County Fire Department. Two eastbound lanes and all westbound lanes of Highway 118 reopened by that time as well, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Woolsey and Hill fires in Ventura County

Red circles on this live-updating map are actively burning areas, as detected by satellite. Orange circles have burned in the past 12 to 24 hours, and yellow circles have burned within the past 48 hours. Yellow areas represent the fire perimeter.
Source: National Interagency Fire Center

As of Monday morning, the Woolsey Fire had burned 91,572 acres and was 20 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. An estimated 370 structures have been destroyed by the blaze, with another 57,000 threatened.

Overnight, the blaze grew by more than 6,000 acres and containment grew by 5 percent.

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect in many areas, including the entire cities of Malibu and Calabasas. Lifting of the evacuation order in some neighborhoods and the reopening of Highway 101 began late Sunday, marking positive developments even though forecasts called for continuing critical fire weather conditions.

“Right now, it’s all hands on deck,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said during the news conference. He noted that the area is under a red flag warning, meaning fire danger remains high, and authorities are expecting winds at speeds of 40 mph through Tuesday.

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“These are extreme conditions. If there is a fire in your neighborhood, do not wait for an evacuation order — leave,” Osby said.

The fire’s cause remained under investigation, but Southern California Edison reported to the California Public Utilities Commission that there was an outage on an electrical circuit near where it started as Santa Ana winds blew through the region.

SoCal Edison said the report was submitted out of an abundance of caution although there was no indication from fire officials that its equipment may have been involved. The report said the first alert on the fire occurred at around 2:24 p.m. Thursday, two minutes after the outage.

Lorenzen hadn’t heard about the Edison report. “It wouldn’t surprise me” if it turns out that winds caused equipment failure that sparked a fire, he told the Associated Press.

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