SIMI VALLEY (CBSLA/AP) – About 7,000 homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders after a massive brush fire broke out early Wednesday morning in Simi Valley and Moorpark and at one point threatened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
The Easy Fire erupted just after 6 a.m. in the 200 block of West Los Angeles Avenue at "about the worst time it could happen" because of strong winds and "fuels that were ripe and ready to carry fire," according to Los Angeles County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen. The fire quickly spread west. Shortly after 3 p.m., California Highway Patrol announced flames jumped the 23 Freeway just north of Tierra Rejada Road.
The fire had burned 1,648 acres and was at zero containment as of Wednesday night.
"The fire outflanked us very rapidly today, pushed by those 40 to 50 mile per hour winds," Ventura County Fire Assistant Chief Chad Cook said at an early afternoon news briefing. "We did up to 65 miles per hour this morning, which made long-range spotting very, very dangerous and also quickly outpaced the initial attack resources."
The Ventura County Fire Department reported that 30,000 people were under mandatory evacuations and another 2,000 were under voluntary evacuations. 7,000 structures were threatened. At least five outbuildings have been destroyed and one home was possibly burned as of Wednesday evening.
Mandatory evacuations remained in place late Wednesday night for an area bordered by Highway 118 to the north, Madera Road to the south, Madera Road to the east and Highway 23 to the west.
The fire moved rapidly between suburban tracts on sparsely developed lands that include small horse ranches and some agriculture.
Incident Commander Chad Cook says firefighters made a successful stand protecting the Reagan Library, but he cautions that the entire burned area is still considered to be a threat.
The Reagan Library, the largest presidential library in the nation, and everything around it was evacuated as well.
"We've evacuated everybody from the library and all the structures down below," Arnold said.
The 23 Freeway was shut down between Avenida de los Arboles and Los Angeles Avenue. More than 22,700 Southern California Edison customers in Ventura County were without electricity due to planned power outages due to the Santa Ana winds.
The Simi Valley Unified School District closed all schools Wednesday and Moorpark College canceled all its classes, along with California Lutheran University. Dozens of other Ventura County schools were also closed.
An evacuation center was set up at Thousand Oaks Community Center.
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