The Woolsey Fire has scorched 83,275 acres and devoured more than 175 structures
As firefighters race to control the Woolsey Fire, mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect for approximately 170,000 residents of Los Angeles County, from Malibu to West Hills in the San Fernando Valley.
The Woolsey Fire is still burning in spots on both sides of the 101 freeway. It has torched hillsides and coastline across 83,275 acres of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and destroyed more than 170 buildings in the beaches, canyons, and Valley. Containment stands at 10 percent.
On Sunday, firefighters extinguished flare-ups and kept a hold on the fire’s perimeter, stopping it from spreading south into communities like Pacific Palisades, said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. He noted that there were no new reports of homes burning down.
“Today was a better day,” he said.
But, Osby cautioned: “We’re not out of the woods tonight.”
Powerful Santa Ana winds are forecasted to kick up again later tonight, posing a major threat. Wind gusts can easily fan embers and ignite dry brush.
None of the mandatory evacuation orders issued for the Woolsey Fire since Friday have been lifted in LA County, and approximately 57,000 structures in Ventura and Los Angeles counties are still at risk.
The evacuation orders affect multiple communities, including Topanga, where many residents have opted to shelter in place, as well as the entire city of Malibu, which City Councilmember Lou La Monte has said was “hit very, very hard.”
Authorities continue to urge Topanga residents who have remained in their homes to “leave immediately.”
(A full, up-to-date list of evacuation areas and evacuation centers is listed at the end of this story).
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is also warning residents in evacuation zones to resist the urge to return home. Even in areas where flames are no longer active, there are downed power lines and trees, smoldering embers that could reignite, limited to no cell service, and dangerous air quality.
“We ask people: Do not go back to those areas,” says Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department chief John Benedict. “Quite frankly, it’s still not safe.”
Since blowing south from Ventura County over the 101 freeway into Los Angeles early Friday morning, unleashing a barrage of flames on Malibu and neighboring communities, the Woolsey Fire has has destroyed 177 structures.
But assessment teams are still surveying the damage, and that number is expected to increase.
But the south side of Malibu, as well as Topanga and Pacific Palisades have not burned—and authorities are telling residents of those communities to be prepared to leave.
“We are trying to contain the fires north of those communities,” says Osby. But “if you see smoke coming your way, don’t wait for the evacuation [order] to leave.”
The fast-moving Woolsey Fire broke out around 3 p.m. Thursday, near Simi Valley. Shortly before dawn Friday, powerful winds, gusting 40 to 50 mph, drove the flames south across the 101 freeway at Liberty Canyon Road and Chesebro Road in Agoura.
“The fire was burning like a torch or flame thrower across the freeway,” KTLA’s Eric Spillman reported. “There were people on the freeway doing U-turns and driving back the way they came from, in darkness with smoke all the way around them. It was just remarkable.”
“The fire was traveling so fast. The [California Highway Patrol] couldn’t keep up with it. We couldn’t keep up with it,” he said.
At 10 a.m. Friday, the city of Malibu issued a citywide mandatory evacuation order, then released a statement two hours later, saying the “fire is now burning out of control and heading into populated areas of Malibu.” Residents were told to evacuate immediately.
As the blaze ripped south toward the coastline, it created apocalyptic scenes.
Residents used the iconic Pacific Coast Highway to flee toward Santa Monica. Parking lots at Zuma Beach were turned into evacuation zones for llamas and other large animals; striking photos show horses on the sand, smoke billowing over the ocean behind them.
Officials with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area reported around noon Friday that Western Town at Paramount Ranch, where Westworld was filmed, had burned (though the church is apparently still standing).
Approximately 3,500 students sheltered-in-place overnight at Pepperdine University, and remained there Sunday.
Shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday, the Los Angeles County Coroner reported that it was investigating the deaths of two people on Mulholland Highway in Malibu, an area that burned. The bodies were found “severely burned inside of a stopped vehicle” in a driveway.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s Commander Scott Gage said Sunday that detectives believe the driver “may have become disoriented while evacuating” and was “overcome by fire.”
Malibu Wines, a popular wine tasting spot that hosts “safari tours” of its ranch and vineyard, reports that it “lost a considerable portion” of its barns and facilities, but its employees and most of its animals, including the giraffe Stanley, are safe.
With the 101 closed in both directions from Valley Circle Boulevard to Reyes Adobe Road, authorities had advised residents to use Pacific Coast Highway to evacuate and to avoid canyon roads, all of which remain closed today.
PCH is closed in both directions from the Ventura County line to Sunset Boulevard; northbound it is open from Sunset to the 10.
North of the 101 freeway, flames swept into the Valley community of West Hills late on Friday night, and evacuation centers were set up in Woodland Hills, Pacific Palisades, and Topanga.
In Ventura, one evacuation center, the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, served as a family reunification site earlier this week in the wake of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill, where 13 people were killed.
“This last 48 hours, 72 hours in Ventura County have been a difficult time,” said Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy. “People lost their lives in the shooting and now people have lost their homes.”
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service warned Friday morning that the fire could spread rapidly because of gusty winds, low humidity, and “critically dry fuels,” including brush and vegetation.
At multiple points throughout the day Friday, the Los Angeles County Fire Department had to down water-dropping aircraft because of the wind and low visibility, said Osby.
“Our firefighters have been facing some extreme, tough fire conditions that they’ve said they’ve never seen in their lives,” he said.
A red flag warning is in effect through Tuesday, with the strongest winds forecasted to whip through the coast Sunday night and Monday. It’s not just the wind that will complicate the fire fight: Humidity levels are expected to linger in the single digits Monday morning through Tuesday afternoon.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued an air quality advisory for the San Fernando Valley, the western San Gabriel Valley, and central Los Angeles County.
Evacuations in Los Angeles County
- Malibu: entire city, plus areas south of 101 freeway, from Ventura County border to Las Virgines/Malibu Canyon, southward to the ocean
- Hidden Hills- entire community: residents urged to take Valley Circle Boulevard toward Chatsworth
- Calabasas: all residences Parkway Calabasas, including The Oaks, Vista Point, Westridge, Calabasas Hills, Calabasas Park Estates
- Agoura Hills
- Monte Nido/ Topanga: entire community
- Liberty Canyon, west to Decker Canyon and south all the way to Pacific Coast Highway
- Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon east to Decker Canyon and west to Malibu/PCH
- Oak Park: entire community
- Bell Canyon: entire community
- South of Bard Lake, east of Highway 23
- South of Highway 101, east of Reino Road, north of Potrero Road, east to the Los Angeles/Ventura County Line
- Westlake Village
- West Hills, west of Valley Circle Boulevard with border to the north at Roscoe Boulevard and to the south at Vanowen Street.
- Thousand Oaks: Thousand Oaks Boulevard north to Sunset Hills, from Oak Park west to Highway 23
- West of Highway 23, south of Olsen Road, north to Pederson Road
- Area north of 101 freeway, south of Bell Canyon Road, west of Valley Circle Boulevard to city limits (shown on this map in yellow)
— Associate editor Bianca Barragan, urbanism editor Alissa Walker, and reporter Elijah Chiland contributed to this report.
This story will be updated.