THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA) – Hundreds of residents who were recently allowed to return home were forced to turn around and flee again after a large flare-up of the Woolsey Fire sparked south of Thousand Oaks Tuesday morning.
The approximately 50-acre blaze sparked in a state wilderness area before 9 a.m. in the Boney Mountains State Wilderness Area off Potrero and Lynn roads, near Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley communities.
“A large unburned couple of canyons of fuel there, the fire came into alignment at the bottom of the canyon, and along with our significant winds, it pushed it up to a prominent peak we call Boney Mountain,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters at a news briefing.
Lorenzen said officials were confident in the firefight because the wind was “pushing the fire up and away from the populated areas.”
Ventura County Fire Capt. Ron Oatman later told CBS2 that crews were getting a good handle on the fire.
“When you’re looking at it from Newbury Park or from Lake Sherwood, it was definitely a scare, but it really wasn’t an imminent threat to them,” Oatman said.
Oatman said the blaze got “hung up” in the rocks of Boney Mountain and in a “burn scar” from the 2013 Springs Fire. The concern is that the fire does not jump Las Virgenes and Malibu Canyon roads to the west, Oatman added.
A mandatory evacuation was in effect for Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley areas south of Potrero Road, including Carlisle Road. The evacuation zone extended east to Las Posas Road and west past the Los Angeles-Ventura county line.
Hidden Valley resident Alex Goodwin told CBS2 he and his neighbors had just received an alert Tuesday morning that they could return home.
“We came back in, thought everything was done, went to work this morning,” Goodwin said. “Me and all my colleagues over at Thermomix were standing, looking out the window and saw the plume of smoke. And I came to get more masks for the office, and I saw this and pulled over to see if we should evacuate.”
Goodwin said there are a couple pregnant women in his office who are worried for their health.
“The last thing one of my colleagues said to me was, she’s got four sets of lungs she needs to protect, she’s very concerned.”
Woolsey Fire Real-Time Evacuation Map
“We were actually moving back in, and we came over and the police are like, ‘there’s been three flare ups,’ and we saw all the smoke come over the mountain,” another resident told CBS2. “We’re heading back out real quick.”
The fire was at least 50 acres in size and rapidly growing, L.A. County Fire Department spokesman David Dantic said.
“We’re having challenges, as you have all seen these past couple days with these Santa Ana winds, these winds can be very erratic,” Dantic told CBS2.
Several helicopters and fixed wing aircraft were actively dumping water and fire retardant on the blaze.
“The fire is very well staffed, we have all the staff we need on this incident,” Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Rich Macklin added.
Flames and smoke could be seen billowing hundreds of feet into the air. The flare-up comes after evacuation orders had just been lifted for residents in portions of several surrounding cities, including Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Calabasas and Hidden Hills.
Retired Los Angeles firefighter and Hidden Valley resident Mike Dunn, who drove out to examine the fire-line, explained to CBS2 the danger of such a flare-up.
“Well, what happens… is that your fire will get on the bottom, of these, what we call chutes, and then it preheats the brush,” Dunn said. “And technically what happens is the brush gets so hot it puts off a gas, and the gas lights, and that’s what you’re concerned about.”
The Woolsey Fire has burned more than 97,000 acres – the largest in L.A. County history – and was 40 percent contained Tuesday night. It has destroyed at least 435 structures.
This is the largest flare-up of the Woolsey Fire since it broke out Nov. 8. On Monday, crews quickly contained the 105-acre Peak Fire which broke out off the 118 Freeway in eastern Simi Valley.
“What I’m hoping is that this wasn’t arson, I’m hoping that’s not the case. And I think we all have to be wary,” said Russell Galipeau, a Newbury Park resident. “We get very complacent about our surroundings and we have to be more aware. We can’t fire-proof everything.”