The Woolsey Fire flared up Tuesday morning near Hidden Valley and Lake Sherwood in the Santa Monica Mountains, prompting new evacuation orders in Ventura County just as many others were being lifted in Los Angeles County.
The blaze has been burning for six days along the Ventura-L.A. county line and has scorched more than 151 square miles, destroying at least 435 structures and claiming two lives in Malibu.
It was about 40 percent contained as of late Tuesday after consuming about another square mile of land, Cal Fire said.
The red flag warning that's been in effect since Sunday isn't set to expire until Wednesday at 5 p.m.
The fire activity was largely in Ventura County, where multiple flare-ups were spotted throughout the day.
In Los Angeles County, crews were concerned about the south end of the fire in Malibu Canyon. Officials said firefighters were working to ensure flames don't spread outside of that canyon to other parts of Malibu and potentially, Topanga Canyon.
"The danger is far from over," L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Tuesday morning. "If you're being held back, it's because the lives of your family and neighbors are still potentially in danger."
Later in the day, the sheriff shared images captured during an aerial tour of the burn area that showed large swaths of land charred and entire blocks of homes razed.
According to Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman, the Woolsey Fire is now the largest blaze in L.A. County history.
Investigators have not determined what caused the fire, although Southern California Edison has reported an electrical outage in the same area about two minutes before flames were spotted.
Nearly 3,600 firefighters were working to contain the blaze.
At around 9:15 a.m., powerful winds pushed flames toward unburned fuel near Boney Mountain in Newbury Park, Ventura County fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.
The fire consumed at least 50 acres in its first 30 minutes, Cal Fire San Louis Obispo tweeted. The flare-up has burned about 1,000 acres by 3 p.m., Cal Fire spokesman Bryce Bennett said.
Aerial video from Sky5 showed dark smoke and flames rising from the brush-covered mountainous terrain. Several types of aircraft were seen making drops on the fire.
The new fire activity was likely to lead to evacuations in the Carlisle Canyon, Lake Sherwood and Boney Mountain areas, the Ventura County Fire Department tweeted at around 9:30 a.m. Within the hour, mandatory evacuations were in place south of Potrero Road for Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley area residents, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office.
The evacuation area was within the perimeters east of Las Posas Road, south of Potrero Road, west of the L.A./Ventura county line and north of Pacific Coast Highway.
Winds in the area were blowing at about 15 mph and gusting to 25 mph, according to the Fire Department.
Later in the day, around 7 p.m., another flare-up was spotted in the area of Boney Peak, which sits south of Hidden Valley, according to the National Weather Service. The agency said it recorded wind gusts of nearly 60 mph in the area at the time.
The following areas have been reopened:
- Pacific Coast Highway
- West of Coastline Drive
- East of Carbon Mesa Road
- From the ocean to the Malibu city limits except:
- Full closure at Tuna Canyon Road and PCH. Evacuation orders still in effect for communities north of PCH and Tuna Canyon Road.
- Full closure at Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Evacuation orders still in effect for communities north of PCH and Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
- Full closure at Rambla Pacifico Drive 400 meters north of PCH.
On Tuesday morning, a smoldering fire flared up at an apartment building on Pacific Coast Highway and Kanan Dume Road. The building was initially damaged on Friday, but caught fire again overnight.
Video showed a large wall of the building collapse as fire crews stood nearby. No injuries were immediately reported.
Several hundred L.A. County sheriff's deputies were also patrolling the city in hopes of deterring looters. Officials have received some reports of suspicious people riding motorcycles and carrying backpacks, but there are no reports of looting in Malibu.
The city also said in a tweet that building officials are touring burn areas to assess damage and determine how many structures have burned. But it cautioned that the process would take time, and asked residents to remain patient.
Southern California Edison has also been in the area, working to restore circuits and return power to roughly 10,000 customers who have lost service. The utility will provide updated information on restoration estimates on its website.
But some residents have not been satisfied with authorities' response to the destructive blaze.
During a public meeting held Tuesday evening, shouts from crowd were drowning out public officials. One person could be heard shouting, "Could we please have some information?"
City Manager Feldman responded.
"Can we stop yelling and come together as a community, and let us give you the information?" she asked. "We don't know when we're going to be able to open up the city. You need to hear that. In the '93 fire, our city was closed for three weeks," she said, referring to the destructive Old Topanga wildfire.
But residents like Greg Cornith content "the city let us down."
"We were left alone to fend for ourselves. I was on the end of Paseo Canyon on my roof fighting fires," said Cornith, who claimed that firefighters "wouldn't come" as the west end of Malibu burned.
The blaze has been linked to the deaths of two people who were found in a burned vehicle in Malibu on Friday.
"They were burned, the house was burned … the whole landscape around there is burned to a crisp," L.A. County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Sgt. Guillermo Morales said.
L.A. County fire Chief Daryl Osby, whose career has spanned for three decades, said the only other incident he's responded to of the same magnitude was Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Malibu officials said answers to question asked during Tuesday's meeting would be posted to MalibuCity.org.
The northern portion of the unincorporated Topanga area has been reopened:
- North of Viewridge Road
- South of L.A. city limit
- East of Topanga Canyon Boulevard
- West of Double Ranch Road or Santa Maria Road
Crews were primarily concerned about the south end of the fire in Malibu Canyon, officials said. They were working to make sure that flames don't spread from the canyon to other parts of Malibu and Topanga Canyon.
Once they get a handle on Malibu Canyon, residents of Topanga Canyon will be allowed to go home, Osby said.
There were still pockets of unburned brush and hot spots fueled by winds, Osby added.
He stressed the need for people to continue to obey evacuation orders.
"We will let you go back home when it's safe," the fire chief said.
Other evacuation orders lifted
Firefighters earlier Tuesday appeared to have gained an upper-hand on the blaze, prompting officials to allow many residents to return to their homes.
West Hills, Agoura Hills, Oak Park, parts of Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park area residents were allowed back into their homes Monday night.
Hidden Hills, the Westlake area of Thousand Oaks and Ventura County's Bell Canyon area were reopened to residents Tuesday morning. Several other areas however, including the entire cities of Malibu and Calabasas, remained under mandatory evacuation orders through the early morning hours.
The following areas of Calabasas have been reopened:
- South of Agoura Road
- East of Cornell Road
- East and West of Las Virgenes Road
- North of Mullholand Higway
- West of Topanga Canyon Boulevard
- North of Stunt Road
- East of the Lost Hills Road neighborhoods (including Lost Springs and Saratoga)'
- South of the Los Angeles/Ventura County Line
According to Southern California Edison, sections of the city might not have electricity at the time of repopulation.
Multiple homes have been lost in Calabasas and officials were concerned that flying embers and smoldering buildings could easily spark more house fires and become a danger to residents.
Many people reentered the city before any of the evacuation orders were lifted.
“We just tried to do our best to help the brave firefighters … it was really hard not to come and try to do something,” Calabasas resident Ohad Tayeb said.
Officials, however have urged residents to heed the evacuation orders because failing to do so could result in the loss of life.
Mandatory Evacuations for L.A. County
For the latest information about evacuations in L.A. County, visit www.lacounty.gov/woolseyfire.
- Remaining areas of Topanga
- Remaining areas of Malibu
- Remaining areas of Calabasas
- Portions of Westlake Village
- Unincorporated areas of L.A. county directly affected by the fire
Mandatory Evacuations for Ventura County
For the latest information about evacuations in Ventura County, visit www.vcemergency.com.
- South Coast: All areas outlined on map at link above