California Wildfire Threatens Farms, Structures September 30, 2009 23:21

Daily News, Los Angeles

MOORPARK, Calif. -- Fast-moving flames fueled by dry brush and gusty winds forced residents of ranch homes and citrus farms to evacuate Tuesday as firefighters worked to contain an out-of-control blaze that has scorched 6,000 acres and injured two.

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The fire broke out at 10:40 a.m. at a ranch near East Guiberson and Cavin roads and is believed sparked by manure that spontaneously combusted, according to the Ventura County Sheriff. By early afternoon, more than 400 firefighters from across California had been deployed along with a handful of water-dropping helicopters.

"Right now, the flame is out of control but the weather is cooperating," said Ventura County Fire Captain Ron Oatman. "As long as there are lulls in the wind, we'll take advantage of them."

As of 4:50 p.m., the massive blaze had zero containment.

Two firefighters received minor injuries battling the blaze. One is being treated for smoke inhalation. The other has a heat-related injury, said Bill Nash, Ventura County Fire Department spokesman.

Winds reaching 45 mph were pushing the fire in a southwest direction, over rolling hills and close to citrus groves. Some structures believed to be out-buildings have burned in the blaze, which also threatens a number of farm houses, agricultural buildings and oil company equipment were threatened.

"Our main focus is to protect those structures," Nash said.

Nash said firefighters will know the know which structures burned once the fire settles down, and officials can begin an assessment of damages. Residents from the Happy Camp, Roseland and Fruitville areas were evacuated and sent to a senior center in Thousand Oaks. Upscale homes near the country club on Championship Road also were evacuated.

In Moorpark, residents of the Meridian Hills neighborhood off Walnut Canyon Road were evacuated. In Fillmore, homeowners living in an unincorporated area known near Bardsdale Avenue and Sespe Street were told evacuate, Nash said.

"The Ventura County firefighter Dale Chandler walks along Grimes Canyon Road after setting a back fire near Moorpark on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009. The fire started just after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the hills north of Fillmore. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

good news is this area has burned before, about three years ago, so there is not as much fuel," said Hugh Riley, Moorpark's assistant city manager.

But he was concerned about the fire that continued to move northwest toward more homes.

"We're energizing our emergency system if we need it, but I hope we don't," said Riley.

The California Highway Patrol shut down Highway 23 between Fillmore and Moorpark. The stretch of highway, also known as Grimes Canyon Road, was closed between Bardsdale Avenue in Fillmore and Broadway in Moorpark.

Red Cross officials set up accommodations for evacuees at the Goebel Senior Center, 1385 East Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. As of 5 p.m., no evacuees had shown up. Horses, cows and other large animals were being evacuated to the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura.

Some residents along Walnut Canyon Highway could be seen watering down their front yards as heavy smoke moved in above them. "I've been through two of these fires, and I'm not worried," said John Lopez, a lifelong Moorpark resident. "The winds aren't that fast, and there's no chance it will come down here."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service