SPRINGS FIRE
Updated: 6:51 p.m. Saturday, May 4
  • Acres burned: 28,000+
  • Containment: 56 percent
  • Structures: 4,000 homes, 300 businesses have been threatened. 15 sustained damage. Five businesses and 25 outbuildings destroyed.
  • Follow: #springsfire | @ladailynews | @LADNMarMendoza | @LHSLASD | @VCFD
  • Stories: | Live blog: Springs Fire updates
  • Evacuated areas: All evacuations have been lifted
  • Evacuation centers:
  • Calvary Chapel, 380 Mobil St
  • Thousand Oaks Recreation Center at 2525 Moorpark Road
  • Malibu High School, 30215 Morning View Drive
  • Fire personnel: nearly 2,000

  • Map: Springs Fire in Camarillo

  • Live Blog: Springs Fire updates
    Photos: Springs Fire, Day 3
    Springs Fire, Day 2
    Springs Fire, Day 1
    Video: Time lapse photography of the Springs Fire
    More: Updates from the Ventura County Fire Department

    Saturday's cooler temperatures and high humidity helped firefighters slow the progress of the Springs Fire, which has ravaged 28,000 acres of Southern California's coastal region from Camarillo to Malibu.

    The Springs Fire, 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, started Thursday morning along the 101 Freeway and quickly made its way toward the beach, forcing the closure of Cal State Channel Islands and the evacuation of hundreds of students and local residents.

    The wildfire quickly spread as gusty winds fed the flames, which spread to more than 43 square miles Friday. Firefighters tried to control the blaze with engines, aircraft, bulldozers and other equipment. Authorities on Saturday afternoon announced firefighters had achieved containment lines around 56 percent of the fire, and all evacuation orders were lifted.

    By Saturday morning, Ventura County Fire Department had acquired more help from 13 agencies, including fire crews from the Bay Area more than 300 miles away, to bring fighting power to nearly 2,000 personnel.

    "Resources have poured in and firefighters are well equipped," said Bill Thomas of the Los Angeles Fire Department, which has been on scene to provide assistance since Thursday. "With the amount of resources we have, now we have the ability to take more people out there and dump as much we can out there, and really improve on that line. "

    Controlled burns were executed overnight as crews fought fire with fire, burning back into the blaze to get rid of surrounding fuel and snuffing out the flames.

    "With the milder weather conditions, firefighters are making excellent progress on extending fire containment lines," Ventura County Fire Department officials said Saturday afternoon in a written statement. "The fire remains at 28,000 acres and that figure is not expected to change significantly. "

    A sky crane drops water on a hotspot as Riverside City Fire Captain Sean Smith watches along Potrero Road in Newbury Park, Saturday, May 4, 2013.
    A sky crane drops water on a hotspot as Riverside City Fire Captain Sean Smith watches along Potrero Road in Newbury Park, Saturday, May 4, 2013. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer)

    Firefighters have been able to keep the number of homes damaged at 15 since Thursday, Ventura County fire officials said. Five commercial properties were also damaged by the fire, and 25 outbuildings destroyed.

    About 4,000 homes remain threatened Saturday, officials said, along with 300 commercial properties and 250 outbuildings.

    Carol Walkey of Newbury Park lives in a mobile home park that was fortunately spared by the Springs Fire. But the smoky, thick air did take a toll on her neighborhood.

    "On Friday, it was hard to breathe because smoke was everywhere," she said, adding that the sky was red with flames that afternoon.

    The windy conditions also blew dead embers from the nearby fire overhead, pouring down like a light snow flurry, Walkey said.

    "I was at Ralphs and noticed that the people who retrieved shopping carts from the parking lots were all wearing face masks," she said.

    According to the National Weather Service, however, Saturday's calm weather is expected to be on the firefighters' side with the highest wind gusts expected to be up to 10 mph.

    "Firefighters are working in a challenging environment, with the potential for fire flare-ups throughout the day," said Ventura County Fire Capt. Mike Lindbery.

    Nearly 1,900 fire personnel worked the fire Saturday, with help from 11 water-dropping helicopters, six air tankers and a bulldozer.

    Jack Baker, 80, said he, his wife and mother-in-law, drove the five miles to the Calvary Chapel in Camarillo - the same church they attend each week - that has been transformed by the American Red Cross into a temporary home for evacuees.

    "Our evacuation was mandatory," he said. "We are thankful to have a place to stay until we can get home, and we are even more thankful that firefighters have been able to protect our property - and every property in danger. "

    Baker said he didn't want to leave his Camarillo home, a home he built with his own hands, but he "knew it was for the best. "

    The church appeared to be filled primarily with retirees, but a half-dozen students from CSU Channel Islands sat in a circle playing cards with their duffel bags. On Saturday afternoon, there were still about 50 people at a Camarillo evacuation center, which is half the size from just the day before, officials said.

    At the Thousand Oaks Recreation Center about 15 residents remained displaced.

    Betsy Carol, 42, was with her husband and two small children, she said it was "very scary" to leave home, but she knew they had to keep calm and get to safety.

    "The fire just engulfed the area so quickly," she said. "It was important to get out and get out fast. Thankfully the firefighters have done an absolute amazing job and have saved our home - we can't wait to get back. "

    Sarah Johnson, 36, just purchased her first home in Newbury Park, and she said the stress level is high.

    "I just want to get up over the ridge and see my home," she said. "I'm so thankful for the firefighters - they've been working nonstop to protect our homes and ranches. This has been a surreal experience, not one I will soon forget. "

    The Camarillo and Thousand Oaks evacuation centers were scheduled to close at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Malibu High School, 30215 Morning View Drive, is expected to remain open for evacuees.

    As for motorists, the Pacific Coast Highway, which experienced intermittent closures since Thursday, is fully reopened. Fire officials said crews are trying to keep the fire contained south of the 101 north of the Pacific Coast Highway, west of Mulholland Drive and east of Las Posas Road.

    No fire-related injuries were reported either, though fire officials said a traffic collision between a firefighter and local resident Friday did result in injuries.

    The Ventura County Air Pollution Control District issued an advisory Friday stating that air quality levels have reached an "unhealthy" range, and that it could continue through Monday.

    Residents in areas where there is smoke and ash are "urged to exercise caution and avoid rigorous outdoor or indoor exertion. "

    The agency suggests keeping windows and doors closed and using an air conditioner if possible when hot.

    In Newbury Park, many residents said they were grateful to the firefighters who "helped save the area's ranch homes and horses. "

    "They have been phenomenal," said Merla Hanson, a 10-year resident of Newbury Park. "Throughout yesterday they saved our entire community. "

    Authorities are "hopeful" the fire will be fully contained by Monday, and daily life appeared to be returning to normal. A car show in the area was well attended, and local shops and restaurants saw brisk business.

    The optimism is a contrast to just a day ago when strong Santa Ana winds made it difficult for firefighters on the front lines of the Springs Fire. The Red Flag Warning in that area expired Friday.

    The cooler weather across the state this weekend is expected to help the more than 4,000 firefighters battling nearly a half dozen major wildfires burning throughout California, including the Summit Fire in Banning that has burned more than 3,000 acres since Wednesday, according to Cal Fire.

    Crews working on the Potrero Road side of the fire tried to light backfires around nightfall Friday, but found the task difficult to impossible due to the increased humidity, according to Capt. Dan Horton of the Ventura County Fire Department.

    Much closer to the Los Angeles area, the Wilson Terrace Fire in Glendale is now 100 percent contained after burning 750 acres on Friday, according to Glendale city officials.

    The what started as a brush fire on the west side of the 2 Freeway, quickly spread as winds carried embers across the freeway and into Glenoaks and Chevy Chase Canyon. An evacuation order was made but residents of the Glenoaks and Chevy Chase Canyon were allowed to return home at 9 p.m. Friday.

    No structures were lost or damaged and no injuries were reported, though two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion, officials said.

    Ventura County Fire Capt. Scott Detterro said firefighters are bracing for a "nastier fire season this summer. "

    Since January, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to more than 850 wildfires - 60 percent more than average for the same period of time last year.

    "Having this amount of fire burning with the intensity it has had this early in the year is abnormal," Detterro said.

    Fire officials believe that the combination of unusually dry, windy weather has spurred the wildfires igniting through the state.

    "The weather, as of late, is typical in late summer, but not early May," Detterro said.

    Rainfall has been below average all over Southern California, according to the National Weather Service, especially away from coastal areas.

    "We need rain," Detterro said. "It's in the forecast, and we sure hope it stays that way, but we all know Southern California weather can change on a dime. "

    Christina Barnett, 20, of Simi Valley watched the firefighting effort through the night.

    "I just found this really cool hiking trail here Monday and now it's destroyed," she said. "My girlfriend and I've been watching this since Thursday when we had those gnarly Santa Ana winds. That day it was insane. "

    A former resident of Newbury Park, whose friend still lives nearby, Barnett said she had experienced two previous wildfires in the area. Both previous fires appeared to have posed more of a threat to her former home, where her friend still lives.

    Not only has the Springs Fire taken a toll on vegetations and structures, but it's caused problems on Pacific Coast Highway, which reopened following a fire-related closure late Friday.

    An engineer surveyed the area Saturday morning and found that the slopes along the road were stable, and landslides were not expected, Caltrans officials said in a written statement.

    But the potential for falling debris from the denuded hillsides remained a concern as crews continued working Saturday to clear remnants of rocks and other debris in the roadway.

    Caltrans announced Saturday that the agency had received authorization for $2.5 in state emergency funding to shore up the road to protect against potential rock slides.

    A contractor has begun to place temporary barrier along the shoulder in locations between Malibu and Camarillo," according to the statement. The contractor was also placing rock fencing on steeper slopes, "to prevent sand, gravel and rocks that are continuing to fall onto the road after the fire loosened the soil and burned vegetation holding the slope. "

    In a few weeks, engineers will determine if further protection of the slope is necessary to prevent landslides during winter rains," according to the Caltrans statement. "If rain predicted for (Sunday) through Tuesday is heavy enough to cause landslides, the highway may need to be closed again. "

    All other road closures associated with the Springs Fire were lifted Saturday, with the exception of Potrero Road between Wendy Drive and Hidden Valley Road, Ventura County sheriff's officials said.

    Residents of Hidden Valley were being allowed through the road closure with identification, though residents of Hidden Valley and Lake Sherwood were encouraged to use Westlake Boulevard to exit or enter the area to avoid interfering with fire fighting equipment.

    - Staff Writer Brian Day contributed to this report