An arson fire charred 50 acres of pastures and hills Thursday afternoon in Simi Valley, passing harmlessly around two farmhouses where residents had obeyed county weed-abatement rules.
Firefighters are trying to find out who set the 2:20 p.m. blaze along Las Llajas Canyon Road. The fire was brought under control just after 4:30 p.m. by about 125 firefighters from the Ventura County Fire Department, the California Department of Forestry and the California Youth Authority.
While county firefighters bulldozed brush from the fire's path and sprayed down blazing grass, two helicopters dropped water on the blaze. Meanwhile, hand crews using ax-like tools cut firebreaks in the unburned brush.
"It was pretty scary," said Lynn Tuttle, whose hillside home stood unscathed on an island of land cleared of weeds, where the fire had surrounded it on all sides about 75 to 100 feet from the building.
Nancy Hilton's ranch house farther down the hill was untouched, but the three horses in her pasture were spooked by the flames and had to be herded to a safe corral, she said.
"We're used to this, this happens usually every other year," Hilton said of the brush fire. She said firefighters told her that if her family had not done such a good job clearing brush from the property that "it would have been gone."