A Solimar Beach brush fire in southern California has forced the shut down of two of the state’s most popular highways and forced evacuations this morning. The Pacific Coast Highway and U.S. Highway 101, have both been shut down in Ventura County early today, reports CNN. The Pacific Coast Highway is only closed in the section that overlaps the 101 freeway.
Highway 101 was closed at State Route 33 northbound and Bates Road southbound, as the fire is burning on both sides of the highway. It is not known how long the closure will last. Area drivers are being asked to use Highway 150 as an alternative route. The Union Pacific Railroad tracks have also been closed down in the area.
County fire department spokeswoman Heather Sumagaysay said that it is a top priority to get U.S. Highway 101 reopened, as it is a major artery in the area’s roadway system, Yahoo News reported.
At this point, no injuries have been reported. The fire department has the resources to fight the fire for a couple of days, but due to the strong winds, they are not sure how long it will take to contain it.
The brush fire began in the Solimar Beach area at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Christmas night, reported ABC 7 News. Ventura County Fire Department’s Captain Mink Lindberg reported the fire officially at about 12:15 a.m. Saturday morning, KTLA 5 reported. About 100 acres in the 3000 block of West Pacific Coast Highway was burned.
“The flames were visible about 150 feet from the sand…bumping against the roadway. We’re getting a bunch of embers in Solimar east.” said Ventura County Fire officials.
The wildfire quickly grew with the help of dry vegetation and strong gusts of wind of up to 30 mph with sustained northwest winds from 15-20 mph. The wind is not expected to die down but to continue through Sunday. Clear and mostly sunny skies are predicted, with no rain in sight.
Approximately 600 firefighters from various companies were fighting the blaze, trying to protect some 30 to 35 houses in the area from being destroyed. They were trying to protect structures and contain “fire that’s up and down the hill,” according to Kaufmann.
Four fixed-wing tankers were also on their way. Over 1,000 acres had been set ablaze by 8:20 a.m. ET. Another hundred acres were on fire a mere two hours later. A helicopter was sent to fight the blaze, releasing water drops. A second helicopter assisted.
No information is available as of this writing on containment.
Residents from Solimar Beach and nearby campers from Emma Wood State Beach have been required to evacuate the area in a mandatory evacuation by about 2 a.m. Faria Beach, which is also located on the coast, about three miles north, is under a voluntary evacuation, reports ABC 7 News. An emergency notification has been issued by the County of Ventura.
KTLA 5 reports that evacuees were asked to travel north to avoid firefighter operations to a shelter in Carpenteria set up by the Red Cross at the Veterans Memorial Building at 941 Walnut Avenue.
Kaufmann asked that the evacuees make sure their doors and windows were closed before they left their homes.
“Make sure that everything’s buttoned up tight,” he said. “If you leave any window or door or garage door open, that’s just an entrance for one of these embers… to get into your house. We don’t want that to happen.”
The various agencies responding to the fire include the Ventura County Fire Department, Ventura City Fire Department, Santa Barbara Fire Department, Santa Paula City Fire Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, and Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
These agencies are working to contain the Solimar Beach fire to ensure no injuries or major damage to homes or businesses in the local area will be sustained.
[Photo By Toa55/Shutterstock]