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Calabasas fire burns 500 acres, forces evacuations; 3 firefighters hurt

June 5, 2016

A fire in the hills of Calabasas Saturday prompted evacuations, burned 516 acres, damaged two homes and destroyed one commercial building, officials said Sunday morning.

About 400 firefighters were battling the blaze, dubbed the Old fire, Sunday morning, according to fire officials. Crews hiked into the hills in 90 degree heat to find and extinguish hotspots over a “messy” patchwork burn area, said Inspector Randall Wright with the Los Angeles County Fire Department

“Humidity is around 15 percent and we have about five miles an hour of wind, so the weather’s cooperating a bit,” Wright said. 

Firefighters had the fire 30% contained early Sunday morning. The fire also charred several power poles and knocked out power to 681 homes in the area Saturday evening, said Southern California Edison spokesman Robert Villegas. Power was restored to all but two homes by Sunday morning. 

Officials said at a Sunday morning news conference that three firefighters were hurt battling the blaze and that some of the thousands asked to evacuate Saturday must remain out of the area because conditions remain too dangerous. Parts of the area around Topanga Canyon are still under mandatory evacuation, though many residents of Calabasas were allowed to return to their homes early Sunday morning.

Firefighters are still trying to identify what commercial building was destroyed by the fire. The damage to the two homes was minor. Officials praised aggressive brush clearance by residents for preventing more damage.

Helicopters made repeated drops on hot spots, drawing water from Lake Calabasas, a man-made lake in the midst of a private development. 

The fixed-wing aircraft that had been aiding the fight were no longer being used because of darkness, and the Fire Department did not expect to add additional neighborhoods to the evacuation area, Licon said.

Shari Davis was watching the television news as reporters said that much of Mountains Restoration Trust land used by her new summer day camp was scorched. Davis, who along with her husband owns and operates Camp Wildcraft, said, “I am kind of in despair at the moment.”

“It looks like a the whole area could be destroyed,” Davis said. 

More than 50 children were set to arrive at the camp next week, and Davis said she was composing an e-mail to parents letting them know that the camp might need to make alternate plans. 

“This was the first camp we were starting and everything was going so well with so much excitement and enthusiasm,” she said.  “We need to figure out a way to move ahead.”

Fire officials said they were investigating the possibility that the fire was started when a truck struck a power pole. The fire was reported shortly after 4 p.m. 

Meanwhile, in Riverside County, another fire temporarily closed the southbound lanes of Interstate 15 south of Temecula Parkway, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

All lanes later reopened, according to the California Highway Patrol.

As of 9:20 p.m., Cal Fire reported that the fire had burned 70 acres and was 20% contained.