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Thousands Evacuate Maria Fire in Ventura County, California

California wildfire

At a Glance

  • The Maria Fire grew rapidly to more than 11 square miles and forced thousands from their Ventura County homes.
  • Fires began in Riverside and San Bernardino overnight Thursday, forcing evacuations.
  • Police say the 46 Fire was started when a stolen car was abandoned.
  • The Easy Fire came dangerously close to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday.
  • Southern California Edison said the fire began near its power lines.
  • The Kincade and Getty fires continued to burn.
A fast-moving fire forced thousands of people from their homes in Ventura County on Thursday night.

The new fire, the Maria Fire, started just southeast of Santa Paula, California, about 6:30 p.m. local time Thursday night, CBS Los Angeles reported. The fire had already burned more than 11 square miles and was spreading rapidly, according to Cal Fire.

Mandatory evacuations covered a large area west of the fire, across the Santa Clara River from Santa Paula and north of Camarillo.

About 1,800 structures and 7,500 residents were within the mandatory evacuation zone that existed as of 11 p.m., according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Earlier in the day, residents of north San Bernardino were forced to flee overnight when a fast-moving wildfire engulfed several homes as it raced through neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, a second fire forced more evacuations in the cities of Jurupa Valley and Riverside, California. The fire is being blamed on two suspects who drove a stolen vehicle into a field.

The Hillside Fire in San Bernardino had burned through 200 acres as of 4 a.m. local time, shutting down a stretch of Highway 18 as it burned out of control. More than 1,300 people were ordered to evacuate.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department said six homes and two outbuildings were damaged in the fire, which began shortly after 1:30 a.m.

The evacuation area was north of 50th Street, east of Mayfield Avenue, west of Highway 18 and south of open space areas. The fire was fanned by Santa Ana winds expected to reach 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 60 mph.

The evacuation order for the Hillside Fire was set to be lifted on Wednesday night, allowing residents to return. The fire was about 50% contained late Thursday afternoon after having burned some 200 acres.

46 Fire

The fire in the Jurupa Valley, east of Los Angeles in Riverside County, is being called the 46 Fire. It began about 12:30 a.m. Thursday and had burned 300 acres and was 5% contained as of about 8:30 a.m., according to Cal Fire Riverside.

Evacuations were ordered for residents south of Limonite Avenue, west of Crestmore, east of Van Buren and north of the Santa Ana Riverbottom.

Evacuation orders for the 46 Fire were lifted at 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon, when the fire was 15% contained. Three residential structures and two outbuildings were destroyed, according to a Riverside County Fire Department website.

The fire was ignited when suspects driving a stolen car during a police chase pulled their damaged vehicle into a field, Riverside Police spokesman Officer Ryan Railsback said. Heat from the damaged vehicle and its tires caused the fire, he said. The two suspects will be charged with arson and other offenses, Railsback said.

Hill Fire

The 46 Fire was preceded in the Jurapa Valley by the Hill Fire, which sent one civilian to a hospital with minor injuries.

The Hill Fire began Wednesday morning. It also forced evacuations, including at a nursing home, where several patients in wheelchairs and stretchers were helped out by workers as thick plumes of smoke shot into the sky, KABC-TV reported. Groups of patients were seen wearing face masks, waiting for transportation near a roadway off-ramp.

As of 11:20 a.m. Thursday, the Hill Fire had burned about 628 acres and was 80% contained, according to Cal Fire. A house and mobile home were damaged.

Easy Fire

Also on Wednesday, a fast-moving wildfire in Ventura County, California came dangerously close to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Nearby residents fled with whatever belongings they could carry and scrambled to get horses and other livestock out of harm's way.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered after the blaze, known as the Easy Fire, started just before 7 a.m. Wednesday and burned close to several neighborhoods in the Simi Valley. The fire burned more than 2 square miles within just a few hours. It was 5% contained Thursday morning

At one point, the Easy Fire was threatening 7,000 homes affecting 26,000 residents, officials said. Most of those were under the mandatory evacuation order. That order was lifted Thursday.

"The fire outflanked us very rapidly today, pushed by those 40 to 45 mph winds," said Ventura County Fire Department Assistant Chief Chad Cook, adding that gusts reached 60 mph and aerial operations had to be grounded at times.

Several outbuildings had burned and there were reports of at least one home in flames.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, but Southern California Edison filed a report with state regulators that said it began near power lines owned by the utility, the Associated Press reported.

Melissa Giller, spokeswoman for the Reagan library, said flames started coming up the back part of the museum property about 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Giller described the harrowing scene to The Weather Channel late Wednesday morning.

"It got to about, within about 50 feet, of the Reagan library, to the outskirts. The firefighters threw water drops and on-ground firefighters were able to turn the fire around. But now, from what I’m seeing on the news and what I’m hearing is now the fire coming up the front side, the complete opposite of our property," Giller said.

A handful of employees were onsite monitoring the situation.

"They said that even though the fire is sort of circling the library, they still feel completely safe," Giller said. "The amount of water drops that the fire department is doing … they are dropping so much water that the museum building itself and all of our buildings are completely safe."

Power Outages

About 53,000 customers in Northern and Central California remained without electricity Thursday due to precautionary shutoffs aimed to prevent wildfires. Pacific Gas and Electric started shutting off power Tuesday to some 540,000 customers in parts of 27 counties, the utility said in a press release.

Southern California Edison reported that more than 64,000 customers were still without power on Thursday. Another 224,000 were warned their electricity could be shut off, too.

Getty Fire

The Getty Fire began on the west side of the 405 freeway near the Getty Center about 1:30 a.m. Monday, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said the blaze was started when a tree branch was blown onto a power line by strong winds. The incident was captured on dashcam footage.

By Wednesday, it had spread to just over 1 square mile and threatened more than 7,000 structures. It was almost 40% contained. Most evacuation orders were lifted by Thursday for all but a small area next to the 405.

Twelve homes were destroyed in the fire and another five were damaged. More than 700 firefighters were on the scene.

Kincade Fire

In Northern California, firefighters appeared to be making headway on the Kincade Fire, which had burned nearly 120 square miles and was 60% contained as of Thursday afternoon. The fire, which started on Oct. 23 near Geyserville, has destroyed at least 266 structures, including 133 homes, and damaged 47 others.

The fire had threatened more than 90,000 structures were threatened and 126,000 people were under evacuation orders, although many were allowed to return home Tuesday and Wednesday.

Two firefighters were injured on Sunday near the fire, including one that had to be airlifted due to his burns. He was taken to the UC Davis Medical Center and was listed in stable condition on Tuesday, according to a Cal Fire official speaking at a morning news conference. The second firefighter sustained minor burn injuries.

 

This story was originally published in weather