Firefighters have managed to control the California wildfire that destroyed over 1,000 acres. Fire crews also lifted the evacuation order and reopened the scenic 101 highway along the Southern California coast.
Fire crews managed to contain the spread of a wind-whipped wildfire along the Southern California coast. The coastal highway, too, was reopened after firefighters made significant progress. Authorities confirmed that the blaze was started by a downed power line. Both the sides of the scenic 101 highway were closed overnight from State Route 33 to State Route 150. However, working through the night, firefighters managed to control 60 percent of the inferno and reopened the highway by 2:05 p.m. Fire Department Capt. Mike Lindbery tweeted, confirming the news.
— Capt Mike Lindbery (@VCFD_PIO) December 26, 2015
The fire began late Friday northwest of the city of Ventura, and immediately reached state Highway 101, a major route connecting Northern and Southern California, reported Fox News. Aided by strong winds, the wildfire quickly burnt the dry timber. With winds reaching 50 mph, the fire was able to eat through 1,240 acres of land, causing the California fire crews to issue evacuation alerts and closure of the highway. The fire forced multiple vehicles to remain stuck, said Ventura County Fire Battalion Chief Fred Burris.
“We had multiple motorists stranded with the flames impinging on the highway. We had motorists making U-turns going opposing directions on the freeway with other motorists, not realizing the situation.”
With the six-lane highway remaining closed in both directions on a roughly 15-mile stretch northwest between state highways, multiple vehicles, mostly holiday motorists, tried to find their way through narrow backcountry roads.
Hundreds of firefighters fought the blaze in the Solimar Beach area of Ventura County and were able to draw containment lines around 60 percent of the conflagration by Saturday evening, reported Reuters. Though the highway has been opened, the region isn’t completely safe, cautioned Ventura County Fire Department Chief Norm Plott.
“Even if we do open up the roadways, it’s still not a contained fire. It’s a very dynamic fire. We’re not quite out of the woods yet.”
The fire may have been started by a power line that went down on private property. First reports of the California wildfire started coming in at 11 p.m. local time on Friday near Ventura, which is about 65 miles (105 km) northwest of Los Angeles. The fire quickly spread, owing to winds that were as high as 50 miles per hour. Burning through dry vegetation, the wildfire was rising rapidly. By 2 a.m., the fire was dangerously close to the highway as well as the Solimar Beach community, which has about 50 to 60 homes. The houses, as well as a nearby campground, were issued a mandatory evacuation order, while a “voluntary” evacuation order was issued to the nearby Faria Beach community, where there are 30 to 40 homes, shared fire officials. However, with the wildfire contained, the orders were subsequently cancelled.
Speaking about the valiant efforts of the firefighters, Tom Clemo, deputy fire chief from the neighboring city of Santa Monica, which aided the firefighting effort, said as follows.
“We made tremendous progress today. Despite the challenges of high winds, steep terrain, significant brush, we were able to bring a stop to all forward progress of the fire.”
Clemo was referring to the steep canyons, dry vegetation and strong winds that kept changing direction, which challenged the firefighters. The winds were expected to shift several times, initially blowing from the north, to the northeast and ending up from the northwest, reported TJC Newspaper.
— Wildfire Today (@wildfiretoday) December 26, 2015
About 600 firefighters battled the blaze from on the ground and from the air. Only two firefighters suffered minor injuries, while there were no civilian casualties reported.
[Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images]