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Woolsey firefighting efforts could be hampered by strong winds through Tuesday

Strong winds are expected to increase through Tuesday for portions of Southern California where fires have already consumed more than 85,000 acres.

Wind gusts of as high as 35 mph were expected Monday for portions of Thousand Oaks and Malibu – where the deadly Woolsey fire so far has destroyed 177 structures and killed two people, authorities said.

As of Monday morning, the fire was 15 percent contained.

“The winds play a major factor in how things can go today,” Cal Fire Division Chief Chris Anthony said Monday morning. “Given how dry things are, and how explosive conditions can be, just a little wind can make a big difference. We’re concerned but we’re prepared. We still have a lot of work to do.”

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The increased winds could change the way fire retardant and water drops are conducted, Anthony said.

At their most effective, water and retardant drops must penetrate through the foliage and brush to the fire. But heavy winds could disperse the retardant across a larger area, making it harder for the chemical to reach its mark. Fire authorities could decide to make changes in the way the drops are done — releasing the chemical closer to the ground, for example, Anthony said.

At an 11 a.m. Monday press conference, officials will update the public on the progress of defeating the Woolsey fire (Please check back here for new information).

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Late Sunday night, all lanes of the 101 Freeway, between Valley Circle and Reyes Adobe Road, were re-opened. The freeway was shut down Thursday when the Woolsey fire first ignited. Off-ramps from Valley Circle to Liberty Canyon Road remain closed.

The fire has forced thousands of residents to flee their homes and communities, but as of Sunday night some Agoura Hills and Westlake Village residents were allowed to return.

In Westlake Village Sunday night, Gus and Michele Seminario counted their blessings but waited with sadness for their neighbors.

At Oak Forest Estates mobile-home park, as many as 14 homes were destroyed.

“This could have happened to me,” said Gus Seminario, 73, from the doorway of his residence. “It’s very sad.”

“It happened in a one-block area,” said Michele Seminaro, 71.

At 1 a.m. Friday, they had fled the mobile-home park. When they returned later that day, they were surprised their mobile home was intact.

“I thought it would be destroyed because it was surrounded by fire,” Gus Seminario said.

Some evacuations were also lifted on the Ventura County side of the fire Sunday night.

Firefighters will continue to focus their efforts on protecting the lives of people who live the hillside communities in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, Anthony said.

“From Thousands Oaks all the way to Malibu, we have to start getting a foothold in there,” Anthony said.

Two people were found dead in a charred car, officials said Sunday, with authorities believing they were probably fleeing the flames, became disoriented and were overcome by the fast-moving blaze. Three firefighters were reported injured, with no details provided.

Sunday evening, the entire city of Calabasas was under evacuation orders.

“The only thing we’re not concerned about is the ocean,”  Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.


Source: Orange County Register

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