The Woolsey Fire Has Burned 70,000 Acres, 2 Deaths Linked To Fire

Los Angeles County firefighters work to extinguish flames from reaching a house on Dume Drive during the Woolsey Fire on Nov. 9, 2018. (Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image for LAist)

Editor's note: This story is no longer being updated. You can find our most recent coverage here.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes as two wildfires burn in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. While firefighters have made progress on the Hill Fire, the much larger Woolsey Fire has been more difficult, destroying an unknown number of homes and other property as displaced residents wait for answers. However, firefighters started to get a handle on things Saturday in a lull in the winds, reaching 5 percent containment.

Here's the latest on the Woolsey and Hill fires on Day 3 as of 7:30 p.m. Saturday. (You can see more photos of the Woolsey Fire and the destruction left in its wake here.)


WOOLSEY FIRE

(Via KPCC Fire Tracker)

The fire held at 70,000 acres burned from Saturday morning to Saturday afternoon, according to officials, with some progress being made — containment increased from 0 to 5 percent. Firefighters on Saturday had managed to paint a lot of fire retardant along ridges and canyon areas, as well as cutting line along the back side of the fire.

Between 7 and 10 homes in Agoura Hills have been red-tagged, the town's Mayor William Koehler said.

Winds shifted Saturday in a way that helped firefighters, but not Southern California's air quality. It was expected to shift back the other direction Saturday night, with Santa Ana winds kicking back up Sunday.

The wind Saturday night will be gusting to 45 mph in Santa Clarita, 55 mph over mountain areas. Firefighters expect winds from 30-45 mph Sunday through Tuesday, they said at an afternoon press conference.

"Don't be lulled into a false sense of security," Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.

Red Flag parking restrictions will be in effect due to the weather conditions in the city of Los Angeles, starting at 8 a.m. Sunday. They will remain in effect until further notice in order to help keep roads clear for LAFD vehicles.

Most areas that had been evacuated remained under mandatory evacuations, but some restrictions have been lifted — you can see the full Ventura County list here. Officials are asking residents not to try to come back until they've received notifications that they can do so from officials. When people do return to Agoura Hills, they should wear particulate masks when they're outside, Agoura Hills Councilmember Lidna Northrup said.

Crews were set to be up all night, putting in more containment lines, L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. Firefighters were also set to be putting hot spots out throughout the night.

"This has been a very challenging and emotional incident for our organization," Osby said. He noted that some fire personnel had lost homes themselves, while also noting that the size of the fire meant there were huge amounts of line to cut.

Damage asessment teams were still out late Saturday afternoon, but don't have a number on how many homes have been lost.

Several officials also asked for the federal government to issue a Major Disaster Emergency declaration in addition to the federal assistance already being provided.

The fire jumped the 101 Freeway and county line Friday morning and blazed a path through the Santa Monica Mountains and south to the ocean. The entire cities of Malibu and Hidden Hills, portions of Agoura Hills, Westlake Village and Calabasas, as well as the Los Angeles community of West Hills, were forced to evacuate as flames neared homes.

Two people were found dead Friday afternoon in the 3300 block of Mullholland Highway, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. On Saturday morning, homicide investigators made their way to the scene, which is inside the footprint of the Woolsey Fire.

L.A. County Sheriff's Chief John Benedict said authorities were investigating the deaths as fire-related fatalities.

Officials also said there had been two known incidents of looting in the area, one of which led to a pursuit. Two people have been arrested, an L.A. County sheriff's official said.

L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said they still don't know how many homes have been lost, but that firefighters "saved thousands of homes" from the "miles and miles of flame fronts coming at multiple communities."

The fire doubled in size overnight.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 70,000 acres burned, according to Cal Fire
  • At least 50 homes destroyed in Ventura County
  • No estimate of homes lost in L.A. County, though officials say it is "very significant"
  • More than 200,000 residents and 75,000 homes under mandatory evacuation
  • Containment is at 5% — up from 0% on Saturday morning — and they don't know when it will be contained
  • 3,500 structures were threatened
  • More than 900 firefighting personnel on scene
A road sign on PCH burns from the Woolsey fire on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Brian Feinzimer/Fein Image for LAist)

'MALIBU IS DEVASTATED'

Tim Morris stayed to keep flames from reaching his family's business, the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe. "Malibu is devastated. It's completely devastated." He and others held back the fire from his business, but the destruction in Malibu is like nothing he's ever seen.

Read more of his story and the stories of others in Malibu affected by the fire here.

CONFUSION AND FRUSTRATION AT PEPPERDINE

Pepperdine University issued a shelter-in-place order for its Malibu campus as the fire burned closer, but conflicting instructions from law enforcement led to confusion and tension overnight.

In a video shared on social media shortly after midnight by Araceli Crescencio, a Pepperdine journalism student, President Andrew K. Benton spoke to anxious students to clarify what was going on.

Benton said sheriff's deputies "without authority — instructions — but not authority" had told people gathered in one of the campus libraries to evacuate. Benton said evacuation was not the arrangement the school had with law enforcement officials.

"So we got it stopped," he said, going on to express extreme frustration. "We continue to get layer after layer of law enforcement and fire authorities who are not getting good communication from central command."

"We have an arrangement that we shelter in place on this campus and we keep you safe here with all the resources that we have with food, water with buildings that are built to withstand challenges like this."

"When people get into a big a hurry - fire department, sheriff's department — they move on instinct and their instinct is just get everyone out of harm's way and move them move them move them. But the question is how where do you go, how do you get there what's there when you arrive wherever you are going."

Benton told the students that fire resources were just then getting to the campus, which is along the coast in Malibu with limited routes in and out.

"I'm very irritated that fire (officials) did not anticipate this, did not get assets here, did not realize we were going to have 3,500 people on this campus," Benton said. "And now they've frightened some of your brothers and sisters out onto the roadways and I don't know where they are and I'm just fit to be tied."

"Stay here, you're safe here," he told them. "I'm sorry that there's tension in my voice. I'm feeling a little tension right now. If you are people who pray, pray."

Crescencio, who continued to report on Twitter throughout the night, shared at just after 7 a.m. that students had been allowed to return to their dorms.

IMPACT ON LOCAL PARKS

Paramount Ranch was decimated by a wildfire Friday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A number of Southern California parks are closed to visitors due to fire danger. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area was burned as the Woolsey Fire crossed the 101 freeway moving south, and it remains closed.

A beloved movie set and tourist attraction there was burned down Friday. The Paramount Ranch site had been used as a western town backdrop since the 1920s for dozens of TV shows and films.

The Woolsey Fire has also prompted the closure of Malibu Creek State Park, where the fire had entered.

Leo Carrillo and Point Mugu State Parks were closed in connection with the Hill Fire but had been burned, according to the California State Parks system.


Here's How You Can Prepare For A Wildfire Right Now


SMOKY AIR IS BAD AIR

A man watches as the Woolsey Fire reaches the ocean along Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Smoke from the Woolsey Fire is blanketing Southern California skies, sparking warnings from health officials.

The South Coast Air Quailty Management District (AQMD) issued an advisory for a large swath of the region, including portions of Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.


FIRE MAP

This map, created by Ventura County emergency officials, shows where the Woolsey and Hill fires are burning. The purple areas are the approximate fire perimeters, red regions are mandatory evacuation zones and the orange areas are under voluntary evacuation.

NOTE: The map does not show evacuation zones in L.A. County. That list is available here.


HILL FIRE

Ventura County fire officials they had made "good progress" on the Hill Fire, which started about 2 p.m. Thursday. Saturday afternoon, officials said they were looking at starting to repopulate some areas affected by the Hill Fire.

Firefighters caught a break as the fire burned into the footprint of the Springs Fire, which scorched the area in 2013. With less fuel to burn, the fire started to die down.

Ventura County Fire Department Captain Stan Zeigler said firefighters were seeing "very minimal active fire activity and just a little bit of smoldering and burning and interior hot spots."

All of the Ventura County evacuations for the Hill Fire have been lifted:

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 4,531 acres burned (downgraded from 6,100 acres)
  • Containment is at 25%
  • No structures destroyed or damaged
  • 437 structures threatened
  • One firefighter injured
  • About 900 firefighting personnel assigned to fire

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, including evacuation orders, road closures, evacuation centers and animal shelters, check the following sites and socia media accounts:

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Ryan Fonseca, Mike Roe, Sharon McNary, Megan Garvey, Kristen Muller and David Wagner contributed to this story.


UPDATES:

7:25 p.m. This article was updated with additional details on evacuation orders being lifted.

6:49 p.m. This article was updated with information on Red Flag parking restrictions.

5 p.m. This article was updated with information from an afternoon press conference.

3:30 p.m. This article was updated with additional photos.

1:28 p.m.: This article was updated with quotes from a local business owner.

11:54 a.m.: This article was updated with information about regional air quality.

11:40 a.m.: This article was updated with information about local parks.

10:47 a.m.: This article was updated with information about Pepperdine University.

10 a.m.: This article was updated with information on fire-related deaths, looting and arrests and more from press conference.

9 a.m.: This article was updated with information from the National Weather Service.

8:18 a.m.: This article was updated with latest figures on acres burned and containment.

This article was originally published at 7:55 a.m.


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