Sunday, November 11

S. California Woolsey Wildfire Updates as of 9 pm ET

(I'm looking for updates on the Camp wildfire and will publish those in the next post.)

"Powerful Santa Ana winds are forecasted to kick up again later tonight"

"The fire was traveling so fast the California Highway Patrol couldn’t keep up with it."

“Our firefighters have been facing some extreme, tough fire conditions that they’ve said they’ve never seen in their lives.”

One of the conditions, sustained high winds with hurricane-force gusts, has repeatedly grounded water tanker planes used to douse flames over a wide area. And even when the planes can get airborne, the wind scatters the water into sprays that are pretty much useless for fighting big wildfires.

Woolsey Fire smoke plume over Malibu
Getty Images

Firefighters battle Santa Ana winds; 170,000 Los Angeles residents still under evacuation. 

The Woolsey Fire has scorched 83,275 acres and devoured more than 175 structures

By Jenna Chandler
Updated Nov 11, 2018, 5:50pm PST
Los Angeles Curbed

[LA Curbed will continue to update their reporting on the  Woolsey fire. See their website for additional articles and several photos, including the one I've posted above]

As firefighters race to control the Woolsey Fire, mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect for approximately 170,000 Los Angeles County residents, from Malibu to West Hills in the San Fernando Valley.

The Woolsey Fire is still burning in spots on both sides of the 101 freeway. It has torched hillsides and coastline across 83,275 acres of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and destroyed more than 170 buildings in the beaches, canyons, and Valley. Containment stands at 10 percent.

On Sunday, firefighters extinguished flare-ups and kept a hold on the fire’s perimeter, stopping it from spreading south into communities like Pacific Palisades, said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. He noted that there were no new reports of homes burning down.

“Today was a better day,” he said.

But, Osby cautioned: “We’re not out of the woods tonight.”

Powerful Santa Ana winds are forecasted to kick up again later tonight, posing a major threat. Wind gusts can easily fan embers and ignite dry brush.

None of the mandatory evacuation orders issued for the Woolsey Fire since Friday have been lifted in LA County, and approximately 57,000 structures in Ventura and Los Angeles counties are still at risk.

The evacuation orders affect multiple communities, including Topanga, where many residents have opted to shelter in place, as well as the entire city of Malibu, which City Councilmember Lou La Monte has said was “hit very, very hard.”

Authorities continue to urge Topanga residents who have remained in their homes to “leave immediately.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is also warning residents in evacuation zones to resist the urge to return home. Even in areas where flames are no longer active, there are downed power lines and trees, smoldering embers that could reignite, limited to no cell service, and dangerous air quality.

“We ask people: Do not go back to those areas,” says Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department chief John Benedict. “Quite frankly, it’s still not safe.”

(A full, up-to-date list of evacuation areas and evacuation centers is posted at the end of this story.)

The Woolsey Fire has has destroyed 177 structures since blowing south from Ventura County over the 101 freeway into Los Angeles early Friday morning, unleashing a barrage of flames on Malibu and neighboring communities. But assessment teams are still surveying the damage, and that number is expected to increase.

La Monte estimates the blaze has ruined “dozens and dozens of homes” in Malibu alone; it has wreaked havoc on Malibu West, Point Dume, Zuma Canyon, and Malibou Lake.

But the south side of Malibu, as well as Topanga and Pacific Palisades have not burned—and authorities are telling residents of those communities to be prepared to leave.

“We are trying to contain the fires north of those communities,” says Osby. But “if you see smoke coming your way, don’t wait for the evacuation [order] to leave.”

(Woolsey Fire map: See where the wildfire is burning in Ventura, Los Angeles)

The fast-moving Woolsey Fire broke out around 3 p.m. Thursday, near Simi Valley. Shortly before dawn Friday, powerful winds, gusting 40 to 50 mph, drove the flames south across the 101 freeway at Liberty Canyon Road and Chesebro Road in Agoura.

“The fire was burning like a torch or flame thrower across the freeway,” KTLA’s Eric Spillman reported. “There were people on the freeway doing U-turns and driving back the way they came from, in darkness with smoke all the way around them. It was just remarkable.”

“The fire was traveling so fast. The [California Highway Patrol] couldn’t keep up with it. We couldn’t keep up with it,” he said.

At 10 a.m. Friday, the city of Malibu issued a citywide mandatory evacuation order, then released a statement two hours later, saying the “fire is now burning out of control and heading into populated areas of Malibu.” Residents were told to evacuate immediately.

As the blaze ripped south toward the coastline, it created apocalyptic scenes.

Residents used the iconic Pacific Coast Highway to flee toward Santa Monica. Parking lots at Zuma Beach were turned into evacuation zones for llamas and other large animals; striking photos show horses on the sand, smoke billowing over the ocean behind them.

Officials with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area reported around noon Friday that Western Town at Paramount Ranch, where Westworld was filmed, had burned (though the church is apparently still standing).

Approximately 3,500 students sheltered-in-place overnight at Pepperdine University, and remained there Sunday.

Shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday, the Los Angeles County Coroner reported that it was investigating the deaths of two people on Mulholland Highway in Malibu, an area that burned. The bodies were found “severely burned inside of a stopped vehicle” in a driveway.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s Commander Scott Gage said Sunday that detectives believe the driver “may have become disoriented while evacuating” and was “overcome by fire.”

Malibu Wines, a popular wine tasting spot that hosts “safari tours” of its ranch and vineyard, reports that it “lost a considerable portion” of its barns and facilities, but its employees and most of its animals, including the giraffe Stanley, are safe.

With the 101 closed in both directions from Valley Circle Boulevard to Reyes Adobe Road, authorities had advised residents to use Pacific Coast Highway to evacuate and to avoid canyon roads, all of which remain closed today.

PCH is closed in both directions from the Ventura County line to Sunset Boulevard; northbound it is open from Sunset to the 10.

North of the 101 freeway, flames swept into the Valley community of West Hills late on Friday night, and evacuation centers were set up in Woodland Hills, Pacific Palisades, and Topanga.

In Ventura, one evacuation center, the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, served as a family reunification site earlier this week in the wake of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill, where 13 people were killed.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service warned Friday morning that the fire could spread rapidly because of gusty winds, low humidity, and “critically dry fuels,” including brush and vegetation.

At multiple points throughout the day Friday, the Los Angeles County Fire Department had to down water-dropping aircraft because of the wind and low visibility, said Osby.

“Our firefighters have been facing some extreme, tough fire conditions that they’ve said they’ve never seen in their lives,” he said.

A red flag warning is in effect through Tuesday, with the strongest winds forecasted to whip through the coast Sunday night and Monday. It’s not just the wind that will complicate the fire fight: Humidity levels are expected to linger in the single digits Monday morning through Tuesday afternoon.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued an air quality advisory for the San Fernando Valley, the western San Gabriel Valley, and central Los Angeles County.
List of Evacuations in Los Angeles County
List of Evacuation Centers and Animal Shelters

— Associate editor Bianca Barragan, urbanism editor Alissa Walker, and reporter Elijah Chiland contributed to this report.

This story will be updated.


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