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8,000-Acre Springs Fire Forces Thousands To Evacuate From Camarillo To PCH

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CAMARILLO (CBSLA.com) — A more than 8,000-acre wind-driven brush fire that started Thursday morning at the base of the Conejo Grade near the southbound 101 Freeway has prompted thousands to evacuate and damaged at least 15 homes, 25 out buildings, power lines and several RVs at a storage facility.

The Springs Fire, which was initially reported as a 10-acre blaze near Camarillo Springs Road around 6:45 a.m., spread to 12.5 square miles and reached Pacific Coast Highway at Sycamore Canyon Road around 9 p.m.

“The fire is continuing to burn along PCH. What this means is the fire that broke out this morning has burned all the way to the coast. It’s a rapidly moving fire through heavy vegetation and it’s proving to be difficult for firefighters,” said Bill Nash of the Ventura County Fire Department. “There’s no place for (the fire) to go over the highway. We’re staging units at the PCH. We’ll try to be in front of it and stop it as it reaches the coastline.”

Roughly 925 personnel — including six hand crews, six choppers, five dozers and 96 engines — were batting the massive wildfire, which was at less than 10 percent containment, according to Nash. No injuries were reported.

In addition to Ventura crews, firefighters from Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Paula, the Ventura County Naval Base, Cal Fire, Orange County, Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles, to name a few, were fighting the blaze. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol were also assisting in the effort.

Fixed-wing air tankers were making retardant drops on the fire in the morning hours, but were grounded due to weather conditions. The tankers were back in the air around 4 p.m. until nighttime.

Crews intentionally set backfires in dry brush to stop the main blaze in its tracks.

Residents of Camarillo Springs and Dos Vientos in Newbury Park, as well as the area south of Potrero Road to the PCH, were ordered to evacuate. Students and faculty at California State University Channel Islands, Sycamore Canyon Elementary School and Cypress Elementary School were also told to leave the area.

Around 6 p.m., evacuations were lifted near Camarillo Springs and Dos Vientos. Residents were told they needed identification to gain access.

The evacuation was also lifted for residences surrounding Cal State Channel Islands at 9:30 p.m. Student housing areas and the campus were still closed, however. Camarillo Street was closed from Lewis Road to Santa Barbara Street due to fire debris.

Residents near La Jolla Canyon, Sycamore Canyon and Broome Ranch, as well as some other people living in Newbury Park, remained under the mandatory evacuation order.

In addition, people were urged to leave the area of Yerba Buena and Deer Creek Road off of PCH.

PCH was closed in both directions between Mulholland and Yerba Buena.  Some drivers were stuck on the roadway because of the shutdown.

Seven large buses helped get 120 children and 30 adults out of Camp Hess Kramer, a religious camp near PCH that was threatened by the blaze.

A live map of the fire details all the evacuation areas.

The Red Cross established an evacuation shelter at Calvary Chapel Camarillo, 380 Mobil Avenue. Another center was set up at Thousand Oaks Community Park, 2525 N. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks.

A third shelter opened at Malibu High School, located at 30215 Morning View Drive, around 10 p.m.

Anyone who lives or works in an evacuation area can call (805) 388-4276 for more information.

Animals were being taken to the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Camp Bow Wow in Agoura Hills was housing cats and dogs free of charge.

Resident Katherine Hoffner couldn’t hold back tears as she talked about the blaze.

“It’s very scary. It’s very scary. It jumped the hill and it keeps going. At least they’re coming in with water drops. But it’s very scary,” she said.

A resident told CBS2’s David Goldstein he was confident with his decision to stay at his home instead of seeking a Red Cross shelter.

“We’ve got the forces here. (The car) is loaded up. If the firefighters run, we do,” he said.

A hazardous materials incident was declared at Laguna Farms, which is less than a mile away from Cal State Channel Islands, after pesticides and fertilizer were confirmed to be on fire.

“We have an incident within an incident. We have a Hazmat incident involving an agricultural facility. What we usually have on these locations are pesticides, fertilizers, diesel fuels, irrigation equipment, all very toxic stuff when it burns. We have a public health risk. The Hazmat team is here. They’re assessing what’s here. They look and ascertain what substances are involved. In some cases, it might be better to let it burn hot and let it do what it’s going to do. The important thing is knowing what types of substances are involved,” said Tony McHale of the Ventura County Fire Department.

Crews later had the situation under control.

A record high temperature of 98 degrees was recorded in Camarillo Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. This broke the previous record of 94 degrees, which was set in 2004.

A red flag warning is in effect until 5 p.m. Friday with wind gusts expected to reach 70 to 75 mph in some areas.

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