Part of the city of Malibu was ordered evacuated Friday because an 8,000-acre brush fire driven by 50 to 60 mile-per-hour wind gusts jumped the Ventura (101) Freeway and was threatening to burn to the ocean.
An alert from the city of Malibu was issued about 8 a.m., and advised that “mandatory evacuation (is) in effect for all areas south of 101 Freeway, from Ventura County line to Las Virgenes.”
About an hour earlier, the city had advised that all of Malibu was under mandatory evacuation, but that alert was then amended.
Residents were advised to use Pacific Coast Highway to evacuate, and to avoid using canyon roads. Some traffic signals were knocked out, and motorists were advised to expect delays.
Mandatory evacuations were already in effect north of the 101 Freeway from Valley Vista to Reyes Adobe in the areas of Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Westlake Village.
The American Red Cross announced that the nearest evacuation center for residents of Malibu was at Palisades High School, 15777 Bowdoin St., in Pacific Palisades. An evacuation center also was established at Taft High School at 5461 Winnetka Ave. in Woodland Hills.
An evacuation center for animals was opened Friday morning at Hansen Dam, 11770 Foothill Blvd. in Lake View Terrace, after the evacuation center at Pierce College in Woodland Hills reached capacity. And a large animal evacuation center was established at the Zuma Beach parking lot in Malibu.
Earlier, the California Highway Patrol shut down a four-mile stretch of the 101 Freeway from Las Virgenes Road to Kanan Road.
The Woolsey Fire broke out about 2:25 p.m. Thursday in Ventura County west of Chatsworth, 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.
The fire placed more than 75,000 homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties under evacuation orders Friday morning and was zero percent contained after scorching 8,000 acres, destroying multiple structures and threatening at least 30,000 homes in the two counties, authorities said.
Heavy smoke and strong winds hampered visibility for crews on the fire lines and residents trying to evacuate fire zones.
The fire prompted the closure of all schools in the Las Virgines Unified School District in Calabasas, as well as Viewpoint School, Montessori of Calabasas, Montessori of Calabasas Too and Muse School, the city of Calabasas announced Friday morning. Also shut down were the schools of the Conejo Valley School District, headquartered in Thousand Oaks, and the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Topanga Elementary Charter School.
About 2:30 a.m., all evacuation orders in the city of Los Angeles were changed from mandatory to voluntary, according to Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department. That affected all residents north of the Ventura (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 1:30 a.m., all residents south of the Ventura Freeway between Westlake Boulevard on the west, Mulholland Highway to the south and Las Virgenes Road to the east were told to leave the area immediately, according to Malibu Search and Rescue. That includes areas of Westlake Village and the unincorporated community of Cornell.
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.
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 statement from the department. The tactical alert was lifted about 7:45 a.m.
“If you’re in an affected area and have been ordered to evacuate, evacuate,” the LAPD statement said.
“The wind-whipped conditions… this is ripe conditions for explosive fire behavior,” Los Angeles County Fire Captain Erik Scott told NBC4. “This is the new normal. When we have conditions like this, when it’s such incredible wind, that brings us in to a different caliber, so it’s become a much more challenging condition.”
A Los Angeles County Fire Department battalion chief told NBC4 the flames could burn “for days.”
By early Friday morning, there were no reported injuries to civilians or firefighters, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
Calabasas city officials advised residents not under mandatory evacuation orders to prepare to leave by gathering their IDs, medications, important documents, emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
Los Angeles county and city crews were assisting in the firefight, which was taking place as a second, larger brush fire raged further west in Ventura County in the Santa Rosa Valley/Thousand Oaks area.
The Orange County Fire Authority sent two strike teams to the assist firefighters battling the Woolsey Fire, Capt. Steve Concialdi said.
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 gunman also died from what’s been reported to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
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