Aided by diminishing winds, fire crews expanded the containment line around the deadly Woolsey Fire Thursday, while more evacuation orders were lifted and a firefighter was hospitalized after being run over by a vehicle while sleeping.
A red flag warning of heightened fire danger expired Wednesday afternoon and onshore winds — not the warm offshore Santa Ana winds that have been sweeping the region — began blowing in the area Thursday afternoon. Conditions were also expected to improve into the weekend before offshore winds return Sunday afternoon.
Since erupting last Thursday in Ventura County, the Woolsey Fire has charred 98,362 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, destroyed 548 structures and damaged 157 others. As of Thursday evening, the fire was 62 percent contained, with full containment anticipated on Monday.
A firefighter from Washington state was injured early Thursday morning when he was struck by a vehicle, apparently while resting or sleeping at a camp area along Pacific Coast Highway near Dear Creek Road in Ventura County.
According to reports from the scene, the vehicle was driven by a person who lives in the area, and ran over the sleeping firefighter. The firefighter was taken to Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks with injuries that authorities said were not life-threatening.
The firefighter is from South Kitsap Fire and Rescue in Washington.
Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with fire commanders in Camarillo Thursday morning to get an assessment of the damage and the continuing firefight.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump — who initially lashed out at California’s forest-management policies as a cause of the destructive blazes — will visit the state Saturday to “meet with individuals impacted by the wildfires,” according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters. His detailed schedule was not released, so it was unclear if his trip will include a stop in Southern California.
More evacuations were lifted Thursday morning in a section of Malibu. Residents in the area of Pacific Coast Highway between Webb Way on the east to the 25700 block of PCH east of Corral Canyon, and from the ocean north to the Malibu city limit, were allowed to return home beginning at 2 p.m.
Pepperdine University, however, remained closed, along with Puerco Canyon Road north of the hard gate, the Corral Canyon Park and Malibu Beach RV Park. Malibu Canyon Road was closed north of Civic Center Way.
Fire officials warned people returning to their homes to beware of changing fire conditions and adhere to road closures and shifting evacuation zones.
“Burned out power poles, burned and damaged homes, debris-filled roadways, broken gas lines and burned guard rails pose serious safety hazards to residents attempting to return to the area,” according to a statement from fire officials. “… The Woolsey Fire is unlike any previous fire in the Santa Monica Mountains due to the vast destruction and devastation to homes and critical infrastructure.”
Some residents continued to express frustration at the slow process of repopulating the evacuated areas, but fire authorities said the slow process was due to efforts to protect the public.
“With power and telephone poles burned, gas lines compromised and roadways destroyed, multiple agencies must work together to inspect the impacted areas and determine overall safety,” according to a statement from incident commanders.
The death toll from the fire appeared to rise to three on Wednesday, with the discovery of a charred body in a burned-out home in the 32000 block of Lobo Canyon Road near Agoura Hills. Family members said the victim was 73-year-old Alfred Deciutiis, a retired oncologist. His death hasn’t been officially attributed to the fire, although sheriff’s officials called it an “apparent fire-related death.”
Sheriff’s officials said deputies went to the home in response to calls from relatives who said they were unable to reach the man. Deputies initially found no sign of him, but they brought in cadaver dogs, leading to discovery of the remains.
The other two victims of the fire were found Friday in a burned-out vehicle on a long driveway in the 33000 block of Mulholland Highway. Authorities said they suspect the driver became disoriented amid the flames.
An estimated 57,000 structures are still considered to be threatened by the flames. At its height, the fire forced the evacuation of more than 265,000 people in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
All remaining evacuation orders in Calabasas were lifted Wednesday. Residents were allowed to return to select areas of the city on Tuesday. Officials also lifted evacuations Wednesday in a swath of Malibu, all of which had been ordered evacuated last week. Evacuations were lifted in an area from Pacific Coast Highway between Carbon Canyon Road on the east to Webb Way on the west, from the ocean to the northern city limit. Residents of the Serra Retreat and Sweetwater Mesa neighborhoods were also allowed to return.
A boil water advisory issued for the Malibu area was also lifted, the city reported.
Evacuations were also lifted near Agoura Hills on Kanan Road from Cornell Road to Malibu View Court; the area southeast of Kanan Road, including the Saratoga Hills neighborhood; and Cornell Road from Kanan Road, north of Wagon Road.
Despite the progress being made in certain areas, fire officials said there are still active flames burning. Cal Fire Assistant Chief Chris Anthony noted Wednesday there was significant fire activity overnight on the fire’s western flank in Ventura County, particularly in the Sycamore Canyon and Point Mugu area.
Anthony also said there was still a fire threat in the Malibu Canyon area on the eastern flank, and hand crews worked Wednesday to establish a containment line in that area from below the Ventura (101) Freeway south to Pepperdine University.
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