Officials Seek Voluntary Evacuations for Dwellers near Large Wildfire

September 27, 2006

Flames jumped over a fire line Monday and quickly moved toward a remote community northwest of Los Angeles, prompting authorities to issue an evacuation for about 500 people threatened by one of the largest and longest-burning wildfires in state history.

The fire burned within 2 miles of Lockwood Valley in northern Ventura County, said sheriff’s Capt. Ron Nelson.

“The direction of the fire placed residents at some risk of harm, so we immediately issued the recommended evacuation,” he said.

Firefighters dropped retardants to slow the fire’s advance in the area, said fire spokesman Dan Bastion.

Meanwhile, fire crews took advantage of calmer winds and cooler temperatures to escalate attacks on the blaze.

The fire in Los Padres National Forest had burned about 134,000 acres, or nearly 210 square miles, since Labor Day. It was 41 percent contained.

Hot, dry Santa Ana winds hampered the fight against the blaze over the weekend. The erratic winds topped 50 mph at times, driving the fire through another 7,000 acres.

Monday’s 10 mph winds changed directions throughout the day but posed little threat, officials said.

The weather was expected to remain mild through the week, with high temperatures reaching the low 80s.

“We could be on the home stretch by the end of the week on this fire, as far as getting the noose around the beast,” said Jim Maxwell of the U.S. Forest Service.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency for Ventura County. The move clears the way for government assistance with costs related to the fire. More than 3,500 firefighters were trying to combat the blaze, which has cost $36.7 million so far to fight.

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