Wildfires driven by high winds destroy 5 homes in Southern

Sunday, December 3rd 2006, 3:53 pm
By: News On 6

MOORPARK, Calif. (AP) A brush fire driven by powerful Santa Ana winds destroyed five homes and threatened hundreds of others Sunday in the canyons and hills surrounding this Southern California bedroom community.

The 6-square-mile fire razed a storage building and damaged five other homes, said Ventura County Fire Capt. Barry Parker. Fire officials called for evacuations as hundreds of residents packed up valuables while dozens of trailers used to transport livestock were lined up on a road.

"The sheriff's (deputies) said if you see flames, leave," said Dave Hare, who was at a home on the site of a recycling business he owns.

Sunday's blaze began around 2:30 a.m. on the northwestern edge of Moorpark, a one-time farm town about 29 miles northwest of Los Angeles that has transformed into a bedroom community.

The fire quickly burned through 4,100 acres of heavy brush in hills dotted with horse ranches, tract homes, and eucalyptus, avocado citrus groves on the city's outskirts.

Flames sprung up again around 7 a.m. near Moorpark, but fire officials later classified both fires as a single blaze known as the Shekell incident, although they were a couple of miles apart. A third fire burned south of Camarillo and was expected to be contained at 30 acres, authorities said.

Winds of 70 mph hampered several hundred firefighters as water-dropping helicopters ran sorties over the Shekell fire.

"We are in a structure protection mode," Parker said. "It's smoky, it's dusty and it's hard to breathe."

There were no containment figures and no injuries reported.

In Riverside County, firefighters gained control of a wildfire that burned 100 acres of hillside brush. The fire, which began late Saturday near a high school in Norco, was fanned by strong winds and caused one minor injury to a firefighter.

The causes of the fires were under investigation.