Evacuations still in place as blaze grows to more than 10,000 acres

Santa Paula, California – Mandatory evacuations remained in place Saturday morning due to the Maria Fire, which continued to burn south of Santa Paula, a city in Southern California. The fire has prompted evacuation orders for nearly 11,000 people.

The 10,720-acre fire first broke out just after 6 p.m. Thursday on a hilltop northwest of Los Angeles. Flames could be seen for miles as the fire moved quickly through dry brush and trees, threatening a number of homes and forcing thousands to flee, CBS Los Angeles reported.

At least three homes have been destroyed in an area with a number of large properties, ranches and orchards. As of Saturday morning, the blaze was zero percent contained. Eastern Ventura, Camarillo, Somis and Santa Paula were at risk, Ventura County fire officials said.

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Firefighters were finding it hard work as shifting winds made the front line a moving target. On Friday, a tug of war developed between onshore and offshore winds.

“It has been an uphill battle ever since,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. “As winds shift, we have a whole new fuel bed open up.”

The cause of the blaze was under investigation, but there was a troubling possibility that an electrical line might have been involved – as such lines have been at other recent fires. Southern California Edison said Friday it re-energized a 16,000-volt power line 13 minutes before the fire erupted in the same area.

The Maria Fire moves down a hill in Santa Paula, California, U.S. November 1, 2019. Daniel Dreifuss/REUTERS

A Red Flag Warning was scheduled to be in effect for the area until 6 p.m. Saturday with widespread elevated fire weather conditions due to low humidity levels, warm weather during the days and persistent winds.

In Northern California, more people were allowed to return to areas evacuated due to the huge Kincade Fire burning for days in the Sonoma County wine country. The 121-square-mile fire was 70% contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The tally of destroyed homes reached 174 and there were 35 more damaged, Cal Fire said. Many other structures also burned.

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