Ventura fire rages, threatening communities both coastal and inland


The return of powerful winds Thursday pushed the destructive Ventura County fire closer to several communities, prompting new evacuations.

Communities both on the coast and inland were under threat. At 4 a.m., officials closed the 101 Freeway between Routes 126 and 150. According to the California Highway Patrol, that left no open routes between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The freeway was reopened around 7 a.m.

The Thomas fire has scorched about 90,000 acres and carved a path of destruction that stretches more than 10 miles from Santa Paula to the Pacific Ocean.

As flames raged toward neighborhoods in Ojai, Carpinteria and Fillmore, officials issued new evacuation orders in Ojai Valley, notifying residents with an emergency cellphone alert. Authorities said they were helping residents of five assisted-living facilities evacuate, while people at Ojai Hospital were advised to shelter in place.

“It’s definitely moving,” Ventura County Sheriff’s Capt. Garo Kuredjian said of the fire. “Forecasters were correct in terms of the wind forecast for tonight — it’s much windier than it was yesterday.”

The fire is burning on the north and east side of Highway 150 and on the west side of Highway 33. Another section of the fire was burning along the coast into Santa Barbara County.

“It’s a weird wind pattern,” Kuredjian said.

Authorities had already expanded mandatory evacuation orders hours earlier in east Ojai after flames rolled down slopes about four miles north of downtown. Residents crowded street corners and gas stations downtown to watch the flames, wondering if they were going to be forced to leave.

“It looks pretty bad up there, but as of right now we have not lost any structures in the city of Ojai,” said Rudy Livingston, the city’s finance director. He said that officials have four 15-passenger vans and three vintage trolleys available to help evacuate residents.

About half an hour after that, residents in Carpinteria east of Bailard Avenue — along the west flank of the fire — were advised to evacuate in an emergency cellphone alert.

Geoff Marcus walked past the charred remains of his Dodge Ram in the driveway of his Ventura home and surveyed the rubble that was left behind.

The raging Thomas fire chewed through the five-bedroom house he grew up in and his family has owned for 60 years.

“I’m looking to see what we can salvage,” Marcus, 58, said.

He spent the morning rummaging through the ashes with his two sons, Steven and Daniel. Together, they were able to scrounge a few ceramic plates and mugs.



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