Firefighters and law enforcement personnel often have a history of military service. Veterans Day didn’t bring them any time for reflection—many of those fighting the Woolsey and Hill fires have been up for days, running on coffee and not much else, demonstrating the same selflessness that led them to don a uniform in the first place.
The fire expanded to over 83,000 acres during the night, but a break in the Santa Ana winds yesterday gave first responders some much-needed time to prepare their defenses. The blaze is now 10 percent contained, and the sun rose on newly dug trenches and wide swaths of fire retardant that authorities hope will keep flames from spreading.
But the break was short lived. By 11 a.m., the wind was blowing hard and the cloud of smoke blooming over the Santa Monica Mountains was only getting bigger. Veterans Day festivities across the area were forced to cancel.
Chief Daryl Osby of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said winds are expected to hit 40 mph, and last through Tuesday. At a press conference Sunday morning in Thousand Oaks, Osby said that’s the biggest focus going forward.
“Our concerns are this: we have 10 percent containment, which means we have 90 percent open lines, and a lot of hot spots within the (fire’s footprint),” he said. “If you look to the east, there’s a lot of open line and fuel that hasn’t burned. We’re concerned about the fire jumping out and coming behind us. We have a lot of territory west of the 101 Freeway, all the way to the ocean and Malibu where the fire has not burned. we’re concerned about hot spots coming out and losing more brush and structures.”
As of 2 p.m. Sunday, Los Angeles County officials said evacuations were still in place for Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Westlake Village and Hidden Hills. VCemergency.com, the county’s official fire information website, does not include Agoura Hills in its latest list of mandatory evacuation communities.
Residents of Oak Park and part of Thousand Oaks–primarily in the Westlake portion–also remain under mandatory evacuation order.
Lt. Kevin Kurker with the California Highway Patrol said the 101 Freeway will likely reopen today but several exits will be closed from Calabasas to Agoura Hills to prevent people entering the evacuation zones.
Kurker asked motorists to be aware that numerous emergency vehicles will be on the freeway, and to give them space to pass.
Chief Mark Lorenzen of the Ventura County Fire Department warned that situations like the Woolsey fire are the new normal for California.
“Things are not the way they were 10 years ago. If you look at the fires in Napa (Valley) last year, the Thomas fire, the fire in Butte County right now, and this fire… the rate of spread is exponentially more than it used to be. Please heed evacuation warnings, do not stay in your homes to try to protect them. Leave that to us, do not put your lives at risk. We want to be able to go in and protect your homes. We do not want to have to go in to protect lives, but we will. When we ask you to leave, please leave.”