Woolsey Fire Jumps Freeway, Mandatory Evacuations Ordered
CALABASAS, CA (KUSI) – A brush fire driven by 50 to 60 mph wind gusts that broke out in Ventura County west of Chatsworth and is zero percent contained jumped the Ventura (101) Freeway near Chesebro Road in Agoura Hills this morning and was burning on the south side of the freeway in areas that were evacuated hours earlier.
The California Highway Patrol is shutting down a four-mile stretch of the Ventura Freeway from Las Virgenes Road to Kanan Road.
The Woolsey Fire broke out about 2:25 p.m. Thursday, pushed by strong Santa Ana winds which prevented fire commanders from ordering aerial assaults in the early morning hours, although some flights began at 5:30 a.m. as the wind died down. It is expected to pick up after sunrise until 10 Friday evening.
The fire placed 75,000 homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties under evacuation orders Friday morning and is zero percent contained after scorching 8,000 acres, destroying multiple structures and threatening at least 30,000 homes in the two counties, authorities said.
Heavy smoke and strong winds hampered visibility for crews on the fire lines and residents trying to evacuate fire zones.
The fire prompted the closure of all schools in the Las Virgines Unified School District in Calabasas, as well as Viewpoint School, Montessori of Calabasas, Montessori of Calabasas Too and Muse School, the city of Calabasas announced Friday morning.
A second evacuation center for animals was opened Friday morning at Hansen Dam, 11770 Foothill Blvd. in Lake View Terrace, after the evacuation center at Pierce College in Woodland Hills reached capacity.
About 2:30 a.m., all evacuation orders in the city of Los Angeles were changed from mandatory to voluntary, according to Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department. That affects all residents north of the Ventura (101) Freeway, south of Bell Canyon Road, west of Valley Circle Boulevard and east of the Los Angeles city limit. Evacuation orders in the Hidden Hills area of Los Angeles County were also downgraded to voluntary.
About 1:30 a.m., all residents south of the Ventura Freeway between Westlake Boulevard on the west, Mulholland Highway to the south and Las Virgenes Road to the east were told to leave the area immediately, according to Malibu Search and Rescue. That includes areas of Westlake Village and the unincorporated community of Cornell.
About 12:30 a.m., all residents in Los Angeles and Ventura counties north of the Ventura (101) Freeway, south of Bell Canyon Road, west of Valley Circle Boulevard and east of Erbes Road, as well as north of Kanan Road, west of Lindero Canyon to Erbes Road extending north to Sunset Hills Boulevard were told to evacuate, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. That includes areas of Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Westlake Village, all in L.A. County.
The Los Angeles Police Department was placed on a citywide tactical alert about 12:45 a.m. to ensure all resources are available to assist with any evacuation orders and road closures prompted by the Woolsey Fire, according to a statement from the department.
“If you’re in an affected area and have been ordered to evacuate, evacuate,” the statement said.
“The wind-whipped conditions… this is ripe conditions for explosive fire behavior,” Los Angeles County Fire Captain Erik Scott said.. “This is the new normal. When we have conditions like this, when it’s such incredible wind, that brings us in to a different caliber, so it’s become a much more challenging condition.”
A Los Angeles County Fire Department battalion said the flames could burn “for days.”
By early Friday morning, there were no reported injuries to civilians or firefighters, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
An evacuation center was established at Taft High School at 5461 Winnetka Ave. in Woodland Hills.
Calabasas city officials advised residents not under mandatory evacuation orders to prepare to leave by gathering their IDs, medications, important documents, emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
Los Angeles county and city crews were assisting in the firefight, which was taking place as a second, larger brush fire raged further west in Ventura County in the Santa Rosa Valley/Thousand Oaks area.
The Orange County Fire Authority sent two strike teams to the assist firefighters battling the Woolsey Fire, Capt. Steve Concialdi said.