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Ventura County

Crews on Alert in Contained Fire Area

July 01, 2001|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County's largest brush fire this season has been totally contained, but steady winds prompted authorities to keep more than 100 firefighters posted around its perimeter until early Saturday evening.

The blaze, which officials have blamed on two boys setting off fireworks in a dry Thousand Oaks field, started at 1 p.m. Friday and burned 275 acres before it was extinguished about nine hours later.

"We're still doing some general mop-up, and we're keeping an eye on the weather because the wind has been picking up," said Joe Luna, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department.

Firefighters from Ventura County, the U.S. Forest Service and the state Department of Forestry monitored hot spots in the burned area between the Lang Ranch neighborhood in Thousand Oaks and the Wood Ranch development in Simi Valley.

Winds were between 10 and 15 mph Saturday afternoon, with the temperature in the high 80s. The humidity Saturday topped 50%.

Although flames crept within 100 feet of homes Friday, no structures were lost. Good brush clearance by homeowners was credited with keeping the fire away, Luna said.

A state firefighter suffered a minor cut on his hand Friday while working with a chain saw and a county firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation Saturday afternoon.

At its peak Friday evening, nearly 350 firefighters battled the blaze with the help of two bulldozers, two water-dropping helicopters and two air tankers. A helicopter made several water drops Saturday morning.

Investigators again interviewed the boys and their parents Saturday about the circumstances surrounding the fire, Luna said.

Firefighters found a pile of spent fireworks in a field at the end of White Cedar Place, where the fire started and in the same neighborhood where the two boys live, he said. "It's too early to tell what kind of penalty they will face," Luna said.

The punishment could range from a small fine to criminal charges. Authorities could also seek to recoup the cost of battling the blaze, which Luna estimated at more than $150,000.

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