Ventura County Fires Threaten 6,000 Acres of Wildlife & Hundreds of California Homes

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 22 (UPI) — High temperatures and heavy winds fueled a 6,000-acre blaze that threatened hundreds of homes in Southern California Tuesday, authorities said.

The fire in Ventura County, west of Los Angeles, and four smaller ones broke out on the first day of autumn when the Santa Ana winds gusted at more than 50 mph, the Los Angeles Times reported. With forecasts calling for more heavy winds and extreme heat, firefighters prepared for a challenging week.

William Patzert, a climatologist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., noted temperatures in the triple digits combined with single-digit humidity could create something of a perfect storm for wildfires.

“It’s beginning with a bang here,” he said. “There’s not much good news.”

More than 400 firefighters geared up to battle the Moorpark wildfire in Ventura County, which burned its way through miles of hillsides and farmland before reaching the edges of Moorpark. It ignited grass in its path, but not the dense and highly flammable brush that played a role in making the Station fire the biggest in Los Angeles County history.

Winds died down by 6 p.m. and the spread of the blaze slowed.

The Times said hundreds of residents were evacuated. Officials said they believed some outbuildings and agricultural structures had been destroyed but they did not know whether any homes had burned.

Subdivisions had been spared flames, which stayed in agricultural areas, officials said.

The fire apparently was started by spontaneous combustion of manure at a ranch, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said. Such manure fires often happen in extreme heat, the Times said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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