MALIBU (CBSLA) – Hundreds of firefighters battling the devastating Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties continued to make progress Wednesday against the blaze, but will have to contend with another round of unpredictable Santa Ana winds.
As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, the Woolsey Fire was more than 98,300 acres and 52 percent contained, according to the L.A. County Fire Department. The fire has destroyed at least 483 structures and another 57,000 remain threatened.
A Red Flag Warning for all of Ventura County, the L.A. mountains and the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys expired at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Cal Fire Assistant Chief Chris Anthony noted there was significant fire activity overnight on the fire’s western flank in Ventura County, particularly in the Sycamore Canyon and Point Mugu area.
This followed a large flare-up that erupted near Lake Sherwood south of Thousand Oaks on Tuesday afternoon which forced residents who had just been allowed to return home to flee again. That flare-up sparked just before 9 a.m. in the Boney Mountains State Wilderness Area off Potrero and Lynn roads, near Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley communities. It reached about 1,000 acres, but did not destroy any structures.
“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.
Despite the flare-ups, evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday in multiple areas including Hidden Hills, Calabasas, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, an eastern section of Malibu and the northern section of Topanga.
Members of the public can determine if their property is in an area that has been re-populated by clicking here.
Woolsey Fire Real-Time Evacuation Map
Meanwhile, L.A. County Sheriff’s investigators were at a charred home in Agoura Hills Wednesday were a body was found. Two people who died in the fire were found Nov. 9 inside a burned vehicle in a long driveway in the 33000 block of Mulholland Highway. Three firefighters have been injured battling the Woolsey Fire.
The Woolsey Fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the area of Alfa Road and East Street, south of Simi Valley. On Nov. 9, it jumped the south side of the 101 Freeway at Chesebro Road near Calabasas and began spreading into Malibu.
Some 3,592 firefighters were assigned to battle the blaze, while 22 helicopters worked from above, officials said. A total of 619 engines, 48 water tenders, 23 bulldozers and 57 hand crews were sent into the battle, Cal Fire reported.
According to Cal Fire, more than a half-million gallons of fire retardant has been dropped already on the Woolsey Fire, along with 1.5 million gallons of water.
The 101 Freeway from Valley Circle Boulevard remained open. Pacific Coast Highway remained closed to all traffic from the Ventura/Los Angeles County line to Sunset Boulevard.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby told the Board of Supervisors there are flames burning deep in the Malibu Canyon area that fire crews cannot access.
“We’re doing a lot of air drops but it’s not safe for our firefighters to go in there,” he said. “Our concern is that when the wind shifts (likely on Thursday) … that fire does not blow out of there and then creep over to the south side of Malibu or into Topanga Canyon.
A meeting Tuesday night at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall began with cheers for first responders, but was quickly followed by some residents walking out because they felt their concerns were not being addressed.
“They were not prepared, the fire department was not prepared,” Malibu resident Forrest Stuart told CBS2. “My house was saved by my next door neighbor who is an 85-year-old retired, decorated fire chief. He and his wife are 85 and they stood there all night and knocked away embers that hit my house. I’m pretty angry about it.”
“My family is OK, we lost our home, evacuee Marybeth Massett told CBS2. “It’s just sad, feelings of frustration are normal. I have the deepest respect for our first responders who do heroes work all the time and, unfortunately, they couldn’t be everywhere at once.”
In Malibu, Pepperdine University said the school’s Malibu and Calabasas campuses would remain closed through Thanksgiving. All Malibu schools in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District will remain closed until at least Thursday, the district announced. City officials said there will likely be intermittent power outages due to weather and fire conditions.
Los Angeles Unified School District officials said Topanga Elementary Charter School will be closed again Wednesday, and will likely remain closed “until roadways around the school are reopened and the school is no longer within an evacuation zone.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)