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Ventura County

Brush Fire Threatens Mobile Homes

September 03, 2002|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A smoky brush fire scorched at least 10 acres of the Santa Clara River bed near Fillmore on Monday, threatening a seniors-only mobile home park before Ventura County fire crews blocked its path.

Fueled by dry grass, oily river reeds and 106-degree temperatures, the fire burned along the riverbed, igniting spot fires in various directions as mild wind gusts pushed it east away from the city, authorities said.

One firefighter suffered heat exhaustion, said Sandi Wells, spokeswoman for the Ventura County Fire Department.

The fire started at midafternoon just west of the Santa Clara River Bridge at A Street, and had traveled about 1 1/2 miles by Monday evening. Authorities could not say when it would be extinguished.

"It's been so hot and the vegetation is so dry that it's spotting," Wells said late Monday. "So we're having a number of small fires ahead of the main fires. They're not huge, but if we have a wind of any magnitude it could blow it across to the north side of [Highway 126]. And that's an open area.

"The head of the fire is still active, which means it's still moving," she said. "But it's contained within the riverbed. It has almost a natural line around it."

Flames reached 50 feet in height and a column of black smoke rose 1,000 feet into the air, visible throughout much of the county and drifting in the direction of Santa Clarita, Wells said.

Sheriff's deputies said the fire came within about 200 yards of a housing subdivision and about 50 yards of the Eldorado mobile home park.

Five of the 15 fire engines called in provided protection for the mobile home park, Wells said. In all, about 150 firefighters responded, including hand crews from the state Department of Forestry. Two water-dropping sheriff's helicopters and two bulldozers also were used in the fight.

Not only did hot weather stoke the Fillmore fire Monday, it set an all-time record for the date in Simi Valley at 111 degrees, breaking the 1982 mark by 2 degrees. It was 109 degrees in Ojai and 107 in Thousand Oaks.

"Sunday and Monday were the two hottest days of the summer," said Stuart Seto, weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

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