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Ventura County

Winds Fan Fire North of Ojai

Forest: The blaze, which started Saturday, has burned more than 2,500 acres along California 33. The cause is unknown.


Fueled by steady winds and thick brush, a wildfire continued to burn out of control in the steep hillsides north of Ojai on Sunday, charring more than 2,500 acres.

By late afternoon, the fire had blackened a wide swath of rolling hills and steep canyons on both sides of California 33 about 12 miles north of Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest, said Kathy Good, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

The blaze was only 5% contained by late Sunday.

The cause of the blaze remains unknown, but it started at the Pine Mountain Inn off the state highway about 3 p.m. Saturday, Good said.

Early Sunday, officials said the fire had calmed down because of cool, damp conditions overnight. But warm weather and gusting winds gave the wildfire new strength.

Officials with the National Weather Service said the warm weather and winds are expected to persist for the next few days.

"It's ripping through and burning aggressively," Good said.

Two campgrounds near the inn were evacuated Saturday, and authorities asked campers and hikers in the popular Rose Valley recreation area east of the blaze to voluntarily leave on Sunday.

More than 900 firefighters battled the fire on the ground and from the air on Sunday, Good said. Five air tankers and three helicopters were dropping water and retardant on the blaze, which burned through an area untouched by fires in nearly 70 years, officials said.

Crews from the U.S. Forest Service, the Ventura County Fire Department and the California Department of Forestry were called in to fight the fire.

Temperatures climbed into the mid 80s and a steady 20 mph breeze fanned flames and spread embers.

Embers burned half a dozen structures at the 160-acre Felt Ranch on Sunday, Good said. The ranch has been the site of Native American religious ceremonies in recent years.

Firefighters battled the fire after it ignited a garage but intense flames, burning hazardous materials and the approaching front of the wildfire forced them to turn back, Good said.

"Firefighters had to pull out of the area because it was getting so dangerous out there," Good said.

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