Easy Fire: Over 1,800 Acres Burned; Blaze Now 60% Contained
Firefighters in Ventura County are making progress on the Easy Fire, which has burned 1,806 acres and is 60% contained as of 7:30 a.m. Friday. (A second major fire, the Maria Fire, is also burning in the Santa Paula area. We are covering that fire here.)
The Easy Fire initially forced thousands in Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks to leave their homes. At least two structures were destroyed, and three firefighters were injured.
By late Thursday morning, all evacuation orders had been lifted, though dangerous weather conditions persist. The National Weather Service extended a red flag warning through 6 p.m. Friday for parts of interior Ventura County and Los Angeles County.
The fire was reported just before 6:10 a.m. Wednesday, south of the 118 Freeway near Madera and Easy streets in the city of Simi Valley.
It broke out amid a rare, if not unprecedented, "extreme red flag warning." Rich Thomson, a National Weather Service metereologist, told KPCC/LAist that he could not remember his agency ever using the term "extreme" to describe such a warning, but the conditions warranted it. Bone-dry air, warm temperatures and powerful Santa Ana winds combined to make this weather event one of the riskiest since 2007, when the Witch Fire ravaged San Diego, Thomson said.
The Easy Fire moved fast, growing to hundreds of acres in its first few hours. Firefighters were quickly outflanked and had to operate on the defensive to protect life and property, according to Ventura County Fire Department Assistant Chief Chad Cook.
In danger were some 7,000 homes, as well as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, which was directly in the fire's path.
Duke Blackwood, the museum and library director, described a harrowing scene as he made his way across the grounds on a golf cart in "blackout conditions" while being pummeled by 50 mph winds. He said the ash was so thick he had to close his eyes, making it hard to know where they were driving.
Fire crews came in with water-dropping helicopters, sky cranes and fixed wing aircraft to help with the firefight. The fire burned completely around the library, but the library itself escaped with no major damages reported.
After the initial defense, firefighters shifted into offense. The new goal was to keep the fire boxed in by existing fire breaks, with the 118 Freeway to the north, Madera Road to the east and south where the road curves, and the 23 Freeway to the west.
At one point, the fire jumped the 23 Freeway, but crews were able to knock the hot spot down and re-fortify their western flank.
The fire likely started near a power line owned by Southern California Edison.
The utility filed a report with state regulators on Wednesday stating that the fire was sparked near a sub-transmission line that was energized, according to the Associated Press, which cited Edison spokeswoman Caroline Aoyagi.
The official cause, however, is still under investigation.
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