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California wildfires: Ventura County evacuation orders lifted

May 02, 2013|By Robert J. Lopez

Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted Thursday evening for some areas where hundreds of people had fled from a massive wildfire in Ventura County that continues to rage out of control.

People were being allowed back to Cal State Channel Islands, the Dos Vientos area and Camarillo Springs, where the brush fire began early Thursday, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said.

Hundreds of firefighters, aided by aircraft, bulldozers and hand crews, had the wildfire about 10% contained Thursday evening, authorities said.

But the blaze had charred more than 6,500 acres across a 10-square-mile area. The fire was moving steadily toward the Pacific Ocean as flames devoured thick brush in rugged canyons in Point Magu State Park that had not burned in years, fire officials said.

"We have fast-moving, erratic conditions," firefighter Bill Thomas of the Ventura County Fire Department told The Times.

Swirling gusts Thursday evening were causing spot fires and creating dangerous conditions for fire crews struggling to make headway.

"One minute you're fighting the fire with the wind at your back. Then it shifts and the fire is coming right at you," Thomas said.

The wind swirls were whipping up embers that were blowing past the fire front and igniting smaller fires, fire officials said.

Earlier in the day, strong Santa Ana winds grounded fixed-wing aircraft. But as the Santa Ana winds subsided Thursday evening, five aircraft resumed water and fire-retardant drops on the blaze. 

The winds Thursday evening near Camarillo had reversed and were blowing out of the west at 13 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Relative humidity, which was in the single digits earlier in the day, had increased to 25%.


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