Live updates: California fires burn thousands of acres, displace residents
By Kaidi "Ruby" Yuan
Update Nov. 12, 8:36 p.m.
Volunteer firefighter says the arrival of Santa Ana winds has made fire situations more challenging.
Despite their region's own historic fire, Wood's Fire, a volunteer fire-fighting organization from northern California, is helping to protect homes and other structures in proximity to the Woolsey Fire and other developing blazes.
Fresh from fighting the Campfire up north, J.T. Bones is a Wood's Fire volunteer patrolling neighborhoods in Oak Park and Thousand Oaks. He said that just because you can't see flames, doesn't mean that area residents, or their homes, are safe just yet.
"Since the fire has actually come through, it doesn't mean everything's out," he said. "There's still smoldering pockets everywhere, stuff's still burning underground by chance."
Bones also said that the arrival of strong winds on Monday has made fighting the fire incredibly unpredictable.
"Anytime these winds, the Santa Ana winds can come through," he said. "(They can) pick it up and start those fires right up again."
Bones said that this fire season has been especially intense for him and his colleagues.
"It's been crazy, it's been bananas," he said.
For the time being, Wood's Fire will continue roaming the area, ensuring that any smaller smolders are extinguished.
– Alex Noble
Updated Nov. 12, 6:00 p.m.
Fires affect more than just humans. The fires in California have not only forced humans to evacuate their homes, but their animals as well.
Malibu horse trainer Chad Mahaffy had to evacuate about 90 horses the Woolsey Fire hit.
"It burned right down to our property line…but we're glad that we had the day to just keep moving and get everybody out and get the whole facility relocated," he said.
Many can't take their animals with them when they evacuate. They rely on animal sanctuaries to take care of their animals until they can return to their homes.
"We're going to care for these animals, just as much as if they were our animals because frankly as long as they are on our property they are. So every single one of them has that look of gratitude on their face," said Greg Cooper, the director of community outreach at the Humane Society of Ventura County.
The Humane Society of Ventura County will hold animals as long as their owners need, according to Cooper. Last year's Thomas Fire brought over a hundred animals to the shelter, and it held some animals for months until their owners were able to return home.
This year, Cooper said they have even more animals this year, but they are willing to do what they did last year again.
To help the animals, visit some of the links below.
Evacuation shelters from across the area are consolidating resources at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. Karen Dittman is among the Red Cross volunteers transforming the school’s Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center into a temporary home for those affected by the pre-existing and developing fires in the area. Dittman has been volunteering with the organization since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Anybody can come who has been displaced so that they can stay here for the night or however long they need to,” she said.
Dittman said that it’s still unclear as to how many people the center will be serving tonight. It will ultimately depend on the severity of the developing fires in the area.
“Actually sometimes we don’t get the information as much if we don’t have a TV or anything setup because we’re busy helping our clients,” she said. “So we really rely on news media.”
The evacuation center has food, water and cots for anyone that needs them. Verizon has even set up a hotspot so that people can charge their phones and computers. Local insurance companies are on-hand to help evaluate the options for those whose homes have been affected by the fires.
Thousand Oaks has had a particularly difficult few days but Dittman says that the community has really come together.
“The communities around here have been fantastic,” Dittman said. “Which is a great thing to see.”
– Alex Noble
Updated Nov. 12, 5:41 p.m.:
Oak Park was among the cities told to evacuate from the Woolsey Fire last week. Susan Neigher has been a resident of the suburban community for nearly 19 years. She fled her home with her family Thursday night at around 10 pm.
“We grabbed pictures, passports, the dog and we went to my brother-in-law in Hancock Park,” she said.
Neigher was able to return to her home on Sunday night. Her house, as well as the majority of her neighborhood, was undamaged with the exception of some ashy yards and charred nearby hills. However there was one home in her neighborhood that bore the brunt of the fire’s damage.
“The house that burned down the street burned from embers because of the wind, the embers probably flew,” she said. “It was just the luck of the draw.”
Although she said that last week’s situation was scary, Neigher praised the manner in which the city handled it, calling the level of diligence and communication “fabulous.” She’d received evacuation alerts from both text messages and television.
The level of organization is perhaps the only aspect of to the situation she praised.
“You know we live in the Wild West and this is stuff we have to deal with.” she said. “You replace the food you had in the refrigerator and you move on. What are you gonna do?”
– Alex Noble
Updated Nov. 12, 2:58 p.m.:
Point Dume residents Jay Thorson and Dr. Steven Grahek are stepping up to get needed supplies to neighbors and friends in the Malibu neighborhood. They stopped by a gas station near Topanga Beach to get daily necessities like ice and fuel for the community affected by the fire.
“For me, I’m thankful that our homes are safe,” Thorson said Monday. “There is such a broad spectrum of emotions and processes. You never know how you’re gonna respond and all of the sudden you are banding together with a group of other neighbors and hitting the hot spots with buckets of water. Everyone’s doing it.”
Although their houses have not been affected, they both told Annenberg Media they’re helping with disaster relief after witnessing other parts of their community suffer from the damages of the growing flames.
“We see house after house are just like ‘shush!’ Exploding,” Grahek said. “Things are pretty ugly.”
– Keyu Huang and Steven Vargas
Updated Nov. 12, 2:56 p.m.:
“The terribly destructive fires that have ravaged California this past week have directly and profoundly affected the USC community,” Interim USC President Wanda M. Austin said in an email sent to faculty, staff and students.
Austin said that USC has been following updates on the fires and contacting those directly affected. She urged those who have not been contacted and need support to contact the following resources:
Faculty and Staff support from the Center for Work and Family Life: (213) 821-0800.
Anonymous, private support from Trojans Care for Trojans: https://studentaffairs.usc.edu/trojans-care-for-trojans-tc4t/
Last updated Nov. 12, 1:40 p.m.:
The Woolsey fire has burned 91,572 acres of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, destroying at least 370 structures—and it won't be contained before Nov. 17, officials said Monday in a press conference.
The Woolsey fire in Los Angeles County and Ventura County is 20 percent contained, and 57,000 structures are at risk, according to Chief Daryl Osby of Los Angeles County Fire Department. He said 250,000 people have evacuated safely, and he asks affected people to evacuate early without waiting for an evacuation order.
"If there is fire, leave immediately. Do not wait for an evacuation order," Osby said.
Chief John Benedict of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said fire officials don't expect containment until Nov. 17. Chief Benedict said evacuation orders have been lifted for Westlake Village, parts of Agoura Hills, Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks; 101 freeway is reopened. Evacuations are still in place for Calabasas, portions of Montenegro and Topanga.
Annenberg Media has reporters in the field in Thousand Oaks, Malibu and other affected areas.