Maria Fire: Nearly 9,000 Acres Burned, Containment at 0%

An air tanker drops fire retardant over lines while helping to fight the Maria Fire, in Santa Paula on November 01, 2019. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

Note: This story is no longer being updated. See the additional resources below and check LAist again Monday morning for the newest information.


Jump to: Evacuations | Shelters | Closures | Weather Conditions | Additional Resources


A fast-moving fire that broke out on Halloween night in Ventura County exploded overnight, growing to nearly 9,000 acres by Friday morning. The Maria Fire prompted mandatory evacuations affecting roughly 10,800 people, and many nearby school districts canceled classes for the day.

The fire is burning in a mountain area between Santa Paula and Somis, a ranching and farming community. The fight against the blaze was hampered late Thursday when authorities grounded air support for the fire after a drone was discovered flying in the fire zone.

In a noon press briefing Friday, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said an investigation is underway into the illegal drone incident. No arrests have been made, but whoever was flying it could face state and federal charges, Ayub said.

Firefighters work to control flames from a backfire during the Maria Fire in Santa Paula on Nov. 1, 2019. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

In better news, Ventura County Fire Department officials said they did not believe the Maria Fire would grow as large as 2017's Thomas Fire that burned for nearly 40 days and ate throughabout 282,000 acres — or 440 square miles.

The Maria Fire started just after 6 p.m. on the upper ridge of South Mountain and authorities warned that the fire was spreading rapidly. It was still 0% contained as of Friday evening, but growth was slowed. As of Friday evening, the size of the fire was still being held below 9,500 acres.

Based on the fire's location, authorities initially believed the fire will run out of fuel at some point, burning at most about 12,000 acres.

VCFD officials later reported a shift in the wind had pushed flames on the north edge of the fire downhill into the Santa Clara River bed in the Santa Paula area, threatening nearby homes and reportedly burning at least one structure in the area. Firefighters were on the ground and in the air to tackle the flames.

Firefighters were working to protect "critical infrastructure" in the area, which includes radio communication towers that emergency agencies rely on, as well as high voltage power lines and oil fields.

The fire is also impacting local crops — including avocado and citrus orchards — in the agricultural areas of Somis, Santa Paula, Camarillo and east Ventura.

The Todd Road Jail Facility was closed due to the fire, and visiting hours were suspended until further notice. Inmates and staff were sheltering in place and air quality was good inside the facility, Ayub said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

THE BASICS

  • Acres burned: 9,412
  • Containment: 0%
  • Structures threatened: 2,700
  • Structures destroyed: 2
  • Injuries: None yet reported
  • Resources deployed: 1,300 firefighters

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An oil pump jack is silhouetted as a helicopter flies over flames during the Maria Fire in Santa Paula on Nov. 1, 2019. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

WEATHER CONDITIONS

Crews continue to work amid dangerous weather conditions. A red flag warning was extended through 6 p.m. Saturday, with wind gusts expected up to 35 mph and single-digit humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

The areas under advisory include the L.A. and Ventura mountains, Santa Clarita Valley and Ventura County valley.

Time lapse video obtained by LAist shows how the wind-driven fire spread from the upper ridge of South Mountain and burned downhill on the Santa Paula side.

EVACUATIONS

Mandatory evacuation orders are in effect in the following area:

  • North Boundary : South Mountain Road
  • West Boundary: West Los Angeles Avenue
  • East Boundary: Balcom County Road
  • South Boundary: Highway 118

Santa Paula:

  • North Boundary : Highway 126
  • West Boundary: East of Campanula Avenue
  • East Boundary: South 12th Street / South Mountain Road
    South Boundary: Santa Clara River
Maria Fire evacuation zone as of early Friday. See the latest map >>

ROAD CLOSURES

  • South Mountain Road between 12th Street and Balcom Canyon
  • Berylwood Road at Aggen Road
  • West La Loma Road between Center Road and Walnut Avenue
  • Price Road at E. Los Angeles Avenue (Highway 118)
  • Clubhouse Drive at E. Los Angeles Avenue (Highway 118)
  • La Vista Avenue at W. Los Angeles Avenue (Highway 118)

EVACUATION CENTERS

For people:

  • Camarillo Community Center: 1605 Burnley St., Camarillo

For animals:

  • Ventura County Fairgrounds (Large Animals): 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura
  • Camarillo Animal Shelter (Small Animals): 600 Aviation Dr, Camarillo
  • Ojai Humane Society (Small Animals): 402 Bryant St., Ojai

Ventura County is also distributing N-95 masks at several locations in Santa Paula, Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura. The full list of locations is available at vcemergency.com.


RELATED: California Fires Are Getting Worse. What's Going On?


SCENES ON THE GROUND

A structure is engulfed by the advancing Maria Fire on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Somis, a small farming Ventura County community. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
A firefighter shoots a flare gun to start a backfire at the Maria Fire, which exploded to 8,000 acres overnight Thursday in the Santa Paula / Somis area. (David McNew/Getty Images)

SCHOOL CLOSURES

School Districts

  • Briggs School District
  • Hueneme Elementary School District
  • Mesa Union School District
  • Mupu School District
  • Oxnard Union High School District
  • Santa Clara Elementary School District
  • Santa Paula Unified School District
  • Ventura County Office of Education Schools [Exceptions: ACCESS, Ojai TEAMS, Providence School and Triggs School]

Charter Schools

  • ACE (Camarillo)
  • Univerity Preparation (Camarillo)

HOW WE'RE REPORTING ON THIS

Jacob Margolis is reporting from the fire zone. KPCC news producers Emily Henderson and Briana Flores are reporting from the station. Ryan Fonseca is keeping this story updated.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:

FIRE RESOURCES

NOTE: This developing story will be updated frequently.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story was out of line with the official acreage figure, because it was based on information provided in the Ventura County Emergency Operations Center incident map that officials later said was inaccurate. Keep in mind that information can change quickly as the situation changes on the ground and better data becomes available.

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