Wildfire forces mass evacuations from Malibu to Calabasas
The Woolsey Fire made a destructive march through Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Friday, destroying numerous suburban homes, closing freeways and causing portions of cities from Calabasas and Thousand Oaks to Malibu to be evacuated as the fire grew to 10,000 acres.
The blaze jumped the 101 Freeway on Friday morning and was making a march toward the Pacific Ocean, fueled by dry conditions and extreme winds. Its rapid movement overnight prompted thousands of people to run from their homes as the flames came close.
Firefighters spent the night and morning battling the fire by air and on the ground, in some cases preventing it from sweeping through neighborhoods. But fire officials say at least 20 homes, perhaps more, did burn.
About 75,000 homes in Ventura and Los Angeles counties are under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders, but with the situation rapidly changing, that number is expected
to grow. There have been no fatalities or severe injuries despite several reports of people being trapped by the fire.
Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda said officials are rushing to evacuate people from neighborhoods in Malibu.
Evacuations jammed traffic on surface streets as people fled the city.
“We have too many people lingering,” Imbrenda said. “We need people to pack up and get out for their own safety.”
Evacuations are in effect from the 101 Freeway to the coast between Las Virgenes Canyon/Malibu Canyon Road to the Los Angeles County line.
Ventura County fire officials said crews that had been working the Hill fire, which has scorched roughly 7,000 acres in the Santa Rosa Valley area, were redirected overnight to the Woolsey fire. Officials said they expect the Hill fire to burn to the ocean.
Intense winds fueled the Woolsey Fire overnight into Friday morning. Firefighters anticipated a tough battle through much of the day as dry conditions continued.
About 3 a.m., mandatory evacuation orders were given for Westlake Village and areas of Calabasas, and Cheeseboro Canyon was being hit hard by the fire, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
“It is critical that residents pay close attention to evacuation orders. This is a very dangerous winddriven fire,” the department said in a tweet.
The news of evacuation in Thousand Oaks added to the exhaustion of residents, many of whom had been shaken by news of a horrific shooting nearby at Borderline Bar and Grill less than a day earlier. Resident Melissa Snyder said it had been a hellish 24 hours for her family.
Early Thursday, she received the devastating news that her close family friend, 21-year-old Noel Sparks, had been among those killed in the massacre. Snyder has known Sparks since she was a baby and could barely make sense of that tragedy, which took place just a few miles from her Hillcrest neighborhood, before she was told to leave her home as the Woolsey fire neared.
“We didn’t get over the one tragedy until the next thing started,” Snyder said.
On Friday morning, Snyder wore a robe as she stood in a Woodland Hills parking lot outside a Manhattan Bagels with her husband and five children.
Her daughter Kaylee got a frantic call early in the morning from her friend Madison that they needed to get moving.
The normally deserted 101 freeway at 3 a.m. was packed with cars. Kaylee, 16, said it was “like you were leaving hell.”
“I’m confused and overwhelmed,” she said.
Steve Snyder said the family’s nerves were somewhat frayed from the lack of sleep. As news of the Borderline tragedy broke, they weren’t sure whether the shooter had been apprehended. They thought he might be in their neighborhood and stood by the door just in case.
“It’s been two nights of no sleep,” he said. “That would be awesome if we could get home today.”
Several people were reportedly trapped by flames in the 5600 block of Hollytree Drive and were asking for emergency assistance, according to the Ventura County Star.
Authorities requested 10 additional fire strike teams to help protect the structures threatened by the blaze, the Star said. Crews at the scene said that without the additional help, they had run out of resources to fight the fire.
Firefighters push a vehicle from a garage as a wildfire fire burns a home near Malibu Lake on Friday.
Large plumes of smoke are seen as volunteers care for evacuated horses at The Pierce College Equine Center, where evacuees are bringing their large and small animals in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles on Friday.