Ventura, California Wildfire Rages over 45,500 Acres, Destroys More than 150 Structures, Triggers Evacuation of 27,000
December 5, 3017
A fast-moving wildfire fueled by high winds and extremely dry conditions swept into the city of Ventura early Tuesday morning, burning 45,500 acres, destroying homes and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate.
At least 150 structures — including at least one large apartment complex and the Vista Del Mar Hospital, a psychiatric facility — were consumed by flames, and many more were threatened.
But the destruction appeared to be much worse as the sun rose Tuesday, revealing fire sweeping through whole neighborhoods in the hills above Ventura.
There was no containment on the fire as of 7 a.m., with 1,000 firefighters battling the blaze and more on the way, said Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Tim Lochman. One helicopter was dropping water and authorities were hoping winds would die down so they could deploy fixed-wing aircraft soon, he said.
Around 7 a.m., the wind appeared to be pushing the fire east toward Camarillo and north toward Ojai, Lochman said.
— Al Seib (@AlSeibPhoto) December 5, 2017
The fire started near California State Highway 150 on Monday evening and spread into Santa Paula. From there, the fire followed Foothill Road from Santa Paula to Ventura, taking out homes and winding along canyons in the process.
On Tuesday, firefighters will continue trying to save homes in Ventura, where flames are actively burning. They face a red-flag wind advisory that notes ridgeline winds of 35 to 45 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph. Winds are expected to decrease somewhat in the afternoon, said Chad Cook, Ventura County Fire Department division chief.
The fire hopscotched through hillside neighborhoods, burning some homes and sparing others. Some residents hoped the the worst might be over in the early hours of the morning when the wind died down. But it picked up with a fury around daybreak, causing more destruction.
Engulfed in flames, the Hawaiian Village Apartments collapsed about 4 a.m.
Water gushed down North Laurel Street as firefighters worked to put out the flaming complex and residents watched, holding cameras and cellphones. The sound of bursting propane tanks filled the air.
Hundreds of firefighters working through the night tried to prevent the blaze from spreading, block by block, as they were confronted by wind gusts of up to 50 mph.
One firefighter was hit by a car while he was protecting homes. He was at a hospital, said Ventura County Fire Capt. Scott Quirarte.
Fire officials said the intensity of the fire, coupled with the high winds, made it pretty much unstoppable.
Adam Maingot describes saving his parents home in the La Cumbre Circle neighborhood of Ventura pic.twitter.com/b53Jb0JhCf— Al Seib (@AlSeibPhoto) December 5, 2017
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