By Alex Dobuzinskis
CAMARILLO, Calif. May 3 A fierce, wind-whipped
brush fire spread on Friday along the California coast northwest
of Los Angeles, threatening several thousand homes and a
military base as more than 1,100 dwellings were ordered
evacuated and a university campus was closed.
A force of more than 900 firefighters had managed by
daybreak to carve containment lines around about 10 percent of
the perimeter of the inferno, which has scorched some 10,000
acres (4,047 hectares) of dry, dense brush and chaparral since
erupting on Thursday morning.
Several farm buildings and recreational vehicles were
engulfed, and fire officials said 15 homes were damaged, along
with five commercial properties. While 25 outbuildings were
destroyed, no residential structures were lost and no injuries
have been reported, authorities said.
Some 4,000 homes were considered threatened, with
evacuations ordered for about a quarter of those residences, the
Ventura County Fire and Sheriff's departments said.
Fire managers said they expected it would take until next
Monday to achieve full contaiment of the conflagration.
The so-called Springs Fire and a flurry of smaller blazes
around the state this week marked an abrupt start to a
California fire season that weather forecasters predict will be
worsened by a summer of high temperatures and drought throughout
much of the U.S. West.
"We're seeing fires burning like we usually see in late
summer, at the height of the fire season, and it's only May,"
Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Tom Kruschke told
The temperature in Camarillo hit a record high of 96 degrees
Fahrenheit by late morning on Friday, according to the National
Strong, erratic winds that complicated efforts to combat the
Springs Fire through much of the first day abated somewhat
Friday morning but seemed to be picking up again, Kruschke said.
In the meantime, wind conditions had improved enough to
allow several air-tanker planes equipped for dumping payloads of
fire-retardant chemicals to return to the air at dawn along with
a fleet of eight water-dropping helicopters, he said.
Fire crew reinforcements were also called in.
STRETCH OF PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY CLOSED
The blaze, possibly ignited by a tossed cigarette butt,
broke out at about 6:30 a.m. local time (1330 GMT) on Thursday
beside the U.S. 101 freeway, less than 10 miles (16 kms) north
of the Pacific coast, and quickly spread to the fringes of the
communities of Camarillo and Newbury Park.
By Friday morning, flames had advanced to within a short
distance of the ocean's edge in some places, forcing authorities
to close several miles of Pacific Coast Highway.
At the Point Mugu U.S. Naval Air Station on the coast, all
non-essential personnel were ordered to stay home for a second
day as flames encroached on a firing range at the extreme
western end of the base, far from the heart of the complex,
spokeswoman Kimberly Gearhart said. She said no ammunition was
stored at that location, bordered on two sides by coastline and
But a base housing unit that is home to 110 active-duty
military personnel and their families was evacuated on Friday
because of heavy smoke, Gearhart said, adding there was no
immediate fire threat to that vicinity.
Military aircraft were continuing routine flights between
the base and a communications post on San Nicolas Island
offshore, she said.
In mid-afternoon, residents were ordered to clear out of
more than 900 homes in Hidden Valley, an enclave of ranches and
estate-type properties southeast of Camarillo. Some 200
dwellings were evacuated earlier along the coastal highway and
adjacent canyon roads, sheriff's Sergeant Eric Buschow said.
Previous evacuation orders for two housing subdivisions at
the northern end of the fire zone closer to Camarillo were
lifted, but those neighborhoods remained restricted to residents
carrying identification, Buschow said.
California State University at Channel Islands campus,
including student housing, was closed for a second day, the
university said in a website posting, though official evacuation
orders for the school were lifted.
A smaller blaze east of Los Angeles in Riverside County on
Thursday destroyed two houses and damaged two others before
firefighters halted its spread, and at least five additional
wildfires burned in northern California.
Hot, dry conditions in Southern California were fed largely
by Santa Ana winds blowing in from desert areas to the east.