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Crews Get Upper Hand in Ventura Fire

Mild weather helps firefighters in School Canyon blaze, which has burned 4,000 acres.

November 21, 2005|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

Low winds and cooler temperatures allowed firefighters to nearly encircle a brush fire near Ventura late Sunday, with officials saying they hoped for full containment sometime today.

The School Canyon blaze erupted early Friday and charred 4,000 acres of canyons and hillsides, nearing homes at the edge of Ventura's historic downtown. No homes were lost, but two oil company sheds were destroyed north of the city, near where the blaze broke out about 3:30 a.m. Friday.

On Sunday, the fire smoldered in the rugged backcountry between Ventura and Ojai. By late evening the blaze was 90% contained, said Joe Luna, spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department.

The cause of the blaze was still unknown, and the cost of fighting the fire was pegged at nearly $2 million so far.

Crews spent the day mopping up hot spots, officials said.

Santa Ana winds had been forecast for Sunday, and a red-flag warning remained in effect most of the day. But winds were less than 20 mph -- compared with more than 30 mph Friday when the blaze raced out of control -- allowing fire crews to maintain the upper hand.

"We are cautiously optimistic that the winds are going to lay down throughout the evening," said Jake Hess, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman. "We're not letting our guard down, but we feel pretty good about what we see."

More than 1,300 firefighters from agencies around the state remained on the scene, although many were expected to be released today.

Officials said the week ahead was expected to bring more good firefighting weather.

Winds are expected to drop below 15 mph along the coast today, and highs are forecast in the mid-80s.

Starting Tuesday, the Ventura area is expected to experience a significant weather shift, with higher humidity levels, a returning marine layer and temperatures in the mid- to low-70s the rest of the week.

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