Santa Paula

Firefighters Battle the 8,700-Acre Maria Fire

The Maria Fire is burning in the Santa Paula area northwest of Los Angeles

Editor's note: The following story is no longer being updated. The latest information about the Maria Fire can be found here.

Two homes have been destroyed in a brush fire that erupted Thursday evening in the Ventura County hills, just one of several destructive fires burning in Southern California.

The Maria Fire exploded to about 9,000 acres in under 24 hours, prompting evacuations as winds continued to blow and humidity remained low. The fire was reported around 6:30 p.m. on the hilltop of South Mountain and could be seen from the 101 Freeway below and as far away as the eastern San Fernando Valley.

"It has been an uphill battle ever since," said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen.

The fire cast an orange glow over hilltops before dawn. By Friday afternoon, thick plumes of smoke could be seen billowing over ridgelines. Water-dropping helicopters were joined by a DC-10 air tanker as wind speeds diminished, but remained strong enough to fan flames. 

Winds at between  15 and 25 mph were pushing flames Thursday night, with gusts up to 35 mph and low humidity expected in the area through Saturday morning. A red flag warning, indicating high fire danger, is in effect Friday afternoon and might be extended.

About 2,300 structures are threatened and 8,000 people are under evacuation orders. 

The sparsely populated area northwest of Los Angeles has oil fields and agricultural properties, including avocado groves, that firefighters will be protecting ahead of an anticipated wind shift Friday night into Saturday morning. 

"We are finding that the winds are starting to change, and that presents its own challenges all by itself," Lorenzen said. "As winds shift, we have a whole new fuel bed open up."

Heavy flames were reported Friday afternoon near a crop field along Peck Road, where at least one structure was on fire.

Firefighters have been deployed around Southern California all week, responding to fires in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside County and Simi Valley, where the Easy Fire burned homes and scorched exterior walls at the Reagan Library.

Evacuations in the Maria Fire were ordered for an area bounded by:

  • North Boundary : South Mountain Road
  • West Boundary: West Los Angeles Ave
  • East Boundary: Balcom County Road
  • South: Highway 118

A shelter was opened at the Camarillo Community Center located at 1605 Burnley St. Camarillo, CA 93010.

Road Closures:

  • South Mountain Road between 12th Street and Balcom Canyon 
  • Berylwood Rd. at Aggen Rd. 
  • West La Loma Rd. between Center Rd and Walnut Ave.
  • Price Rd. at E. Los Angeles Ave (Hwy 118)
  • Clubhouse Drive at E. Los Angeles Ave. (Hwy 118)

Animal Evacuations

  • Small animals can be accepted for shelter at the Ventura County Animal Service's Camarillo shelter.
  • Large animals can be taken to the Ventura County Fairgrounds, located at 10 W. Harbor Blvd. Ventura, CA 93001, or the Earl Warren Showgrounds at 3400 Calle Real Santa Barbara, CA 93105. 

Access to the hilltop was difficult on foot or by vehicle, so air support is crucial to the firefight. They are working to keep the blaze within a perimeter defined by the 126 Freeway, Los Angeles Avenue, Vineyard and Balcom Canyon Road.

There was no immediate word on a possible cause of the fire.

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