LOS ANGELES | A wind-driven wildfire has been raging through Southern California communities, burning homes and forcing thousands of people to evacuate as it relentlessly pushed toward tony Malibu and the Pacific Ocean.
Fire officials were unable to estimate how many buildings were lost from the Woolsey Fire burning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, but said they were expected to be significant.
Tens of thousands of people were ordered to leave the area, but there were no injuries to residents or firefighters, said Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Dave Richardson.
The fire was one of two that broke out Thursday in Ventura County. Another California fire 475 miles to the north leveled much of the town of Paradise in Butte County as it quadrupled in size. At least five people died in that fire.
Firefighting resources were stretched thin running low
“The challenges are, number one, competing resources,” Richardson said. “We all know this is the second fire that occurred in Ventura County, and it’s on the heels of what’s happened up in Northern California where they’ve had devastating loss in Butte County.”
Firefighters were hoping to stop the fire’s march south at the wide expanse of U.S. 101, but it jumped the freeway as the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds increased in the early morning hours.
The fire rapidly climbed into the Santa Monica Mountains and headed toward the coast.
“The perimeter is now the Pacific Ocean,” Richardson said.
Evacuations were ordered for all areas south of U.S. 101, including the entire city of Malibu.
Traffic backed up on sections of the Pacific Coast Highway and some evacuated to popular Zuma Beach.
About 2,000 firefighters were battling the flames as helicopters and airplanes made water and fire retardant drops.