SIMI VALLEY (CBSLA) — A brush fire spanning two counties doubled Saturday morning to 70,000 acres, continuing to make a destructive march toward the Pacific Ocean, destroying at least 150 homes and forcing the evacuation of more thanCalabassas .
Powered by Santa Ana winds and dry air, the Woolsey Fire, which erupted Thursday afternoon in Ventura County before it raced into Los Angeles County, chewed its way through brush and into neighborhoods of Westlake Village and Malibu.
The fire remained at zero containment as of Saturday morning. At least 2,000 firefighters had been dispatched to battle the blaze.
The L.A. County Fire Dept. Friday confirmed reports of a critical burn patient in the 33000 block of Mulholland in Malibu. Officials said they were not immediately able to get to the patient due to downed powerlines on the road. The L.A. County Coroner confirmed shortly before 10 p.m. two bodies had been found in the burn area of the Woolsey Fire. It was not immediately clear if the deaths were as a result of the fire.
Emergency officials were urging residents to adhere to evacuation orders to avoid injury. By Saturday morning, there were no reported injuries to civilians or firefighters, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
At least 75,000 homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties were under evacuation orders due to the Woolsey Fire, one of two wildfires burning in the region — the other being the 4,500-acre Hill Fire burning in Newbury Park.
Just after 5 a.m. Friday, the blaze jumped the south side of the 101 Freeway at Chesebro Road near Calabasas. In response, California Highway Patrol shut down a four-mile stretch of the 101 Freeway from Las Virgenes Road to Kanan Road.
“Early this morning, as the fire transitioned through Agoura Hills, the fire jumped the 101 Freeway right around Liberty Canyon, mid-slope, caught wind, and became quickly established at where we were at today,” L.A. County Deputy Fire Chief David Richardson told reporters at a morning news conference.
The entire city of Malibu was under an unprecedented mandatory evacuation, in addition to areas south of the 101 Freeway, from the Ventura line to Malibu Canyon. The fire was burning south of Mulholland Highway and around 10:30 p.m. flames jumped Pacific Coast Highway, headed toward The Colony on Malibu Road.
Residents were advised to use PCH to evacuate, and to avoid using canyon roads. All four lanes of PCH were opened for southbound traffic at 12:45 p.m. Complicating matters were the traffic signals that were knocked out of service. Drivers were being advised to use the 405 Freeway up to the 118 Freeway in order to get around the backup.
Despite evacuations in Malibu and flames threatening near campus, Pepperdine University called for students and staff to shelter in place.
Evacuations were also issued north of the 101 Freeway from Valley Vista to Reyes Adobe in the areas of Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Westlake Village, as well as in West Hills.
“We have over 300 Los Angeles County firefighters here, and as mentioned collectively, that’s going to grow, as we continue to battle this fire, as it is headed to the Pacific Ocean,” Richardson said.
Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Scott Dettorre earlier told CBS2 that “dozens of homes” had been damaged or destroyed, but there was no exact count.
“The fire has progressed down into the city of Thousand Oaks,” Dettorre said.
“It’s a mandatory evacuation, what that means is, you don’t have to leave, we want you to leave,” Ventura County Fire spokesman Rich Macklan told CBS2 early Friday. “But people know they can’t get back in once they do leave. We want people to leave early, when firefighters ask you to, because firefighting equipment needs to come in and do their work. And if you leave early, it helps us tremendously.”
CBS2 reporter Tom Wait described conditions on the ground in Oak Park as “apocalyptic,” as ember and ash rained down on the streets below.
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. Finally, some flights began at 5:30 a.m. as the wind died down but within 30 minutes, the wind was picking up again as dawn neared and was expected to be strong until 10 Friday evening.
Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation Friday for L.A. and Ventura counties.
About 2:30 a.m. Friday, mandatory evacuation orders that had been issued in the city of Los Angeles near West Hills and Hidden Hills were changed from mandatory to voluntary, according to Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department. The orders affected residents north of the 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 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.
Meanwhile, L.A. County Fire Battalion Chief Trey Espy confirmed 15 to 20 homes were impacted in the area of Kellwood Court and Churchwood Drive in Oak Park, and additional homes were impacted in nearby areas. Espy said firefighters were creating “water curtains” between the homes and would remain on-scene until the threat was contained.
“They will continue to save homes and do whatever they can until the work is done,” L.A. County Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Trey Espy told CBS2.
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 department statement.
“If you’re in an affected area and have been ordered to evacuate, evacuate,” the statement said.
Flames have been driven by 50 to 60 mph winds.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” one Oak Park resident told CBS2, explaining he decided to stay behind and watch over his neighbors’ homes in the area of Kellwood Ct. and Churchwood Dr. and had the utmost faith in firefighters.
“Hopefully they’re able to get it under control and save this neighborhood,” he said.
Another homeowner, speaking to CBS2, said he feared his home would be among those lost in the blaze.
“It was coming like a freight train,” he said, praising firefighters. “There’s not a lot of buffer here but these guys are just awesome.”
A red flag warning was expected to remain in place until Tuesday.
Thousand Oaks was also the scene of a mass shooting late Wednesday at a nightclub where 11 civilians and a sheriff’s sergeant were killed. The suspected gunman, a Marine Corps veteran, killed himself.
Those looking for information on family or friends can call the Ventura County Joint Information Hotline at 805-465-6650.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)