May 4, 2013 in Nation/World

Homes in danger again as winds shift

Strangers with trailers show up to help move horses
Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

A firefighter from Stockton, Calif., gets into position to put out flames while fighting a wildfire Friday in Hidden Valley, Calif.
(Full-size photo)

CAMARILLO, Calif. – The Springs fire outside of Los Angeles made a harrowing about-face Friday afternoon after a shift in winds sent the blaze roaring inland, placing some homes that had escaped the first wave of flames again in the fire’s path.

Officials said flames crept within 100 feet of homes in Hidden Valley as the fire – last measured at 10,000 acres – continued to scorch the rugged terrain between the Pacific Coast Highway and the 101 Freeway. More than 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft flying through thick smoke to drop water and flame retardant.

Residents in Hidden Valley and off Portrero Road have been ordered to evacuate. Evacuations in Sycamore Canyon, Deer Canyon and Yerba Buena remained in effect, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash said.

Nick Schuler, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the homes most susceptible are those that haven’t regularly cleared brush hundreds of feet away from their home as county firefighters suggest.

“We’re in the middle of a lot of structure defense,” Schuler said.

In addition to the 1,000-plus firefighters on the scene, Schuler said hundreds more are en route to the area. The latest tally from Cal Fire said 4,000 homes and 300 commercial properties have been threatened, with 15 residences, 15 outbuildings and five commercial properties damaged.

The Hidden Valley area includes numerous luxury ranch homes, including many with stables housing horses and other animals.

Sue Martin and Coleman Trainor thought the danger had passed Shelburne Farm on Portrero Road, but then they noticed the winds change. When the neighboring ranch began evacuating animals about 2 p.m., they decided they should start to make plans for the 20 horses stabled on their own property.

They worried how they would transport so many animals – but then the trailers starting rolling in. Complete strangers showed up at the ranch, offering their help.

“This is our third load,” said Lisa Riley, who helped take the horses to a Moorpark equestrian center. “We do this for them because they need the help, and I’m sure they’d do it for us.”

Trainor, who is from Virginia, had never seen a wildfire before. “It’s been really exciting to see the collaboration and assistance from people we don’t even know,” he said. “All of that has helped contribute to a successful evacuation. And now we’ve gotta go.”

The type of blaze that hit the area usually doesn’t strike Southern California wild-land until September or October, after the summer has dried out hillside vegetation. But the state has seen a severe drought during the past year, with the water content of California’s snowpack only 17 percent of normal.

That created late-summer conditions by May, and when hot Santa Ana winds and high temperatures arrived this week, the spring flames that firefighters routinely knock down once or twice a year quickly roared up a hillside – out of control.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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