A 15-mile stretch of Highway 101 in Ventura County was reopened Saturday afternoon after a fast-moving brush fire started by a downed power line late Friday night erupted near Solimar Beach.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, the fire had burned 1,236 acres and was 60 percent contained, with about 400 firefighters continuing to work the fire lines, said Ventura County Fire Department officials.
The fire, reported at about 10:30 p.m. Friday, was whipped by 50 mph winds and threatened about 30 homes, none of which were damaged. With the flames endangering motorists on Highway 101, fire department officials notified the California Highway Patrol that the road needed to be closed. The CHP shut down the highway between state Highway 33 and state Highway 150. Train traffic through the area was also suspended.
The forward progress of the fire, which ripped through several hundred acres in the first hours, slowed considerably Saturday morning and four fixed-wing aircraft that were initially used for water drops were released from their duties by midday, said Ventura County Fire Department Capt. Mike Lindbery.
By 2 p.m. Saturday, the CHP began reopening Highway 101 and train traffic was allowed to resume. A section of Pacific Coast Highway between the State Beaches and Seacliff off-ramps was opened around 5 p.m.
Two firefighters sustained minor injuries while fighting the fire — the only injuries reported.
A mandatory evacuation order for residents of about 60 homes in Solimar Beach and a voluntary evacuation notice for about 40 Faria Beach homes were lifted Saturday evening. Fire officials said the Emma Wood Campground would remain closed until further notice.
A Red Cross shelter that was set up at the Carpinteria Veteran Memorial Building was closed.
By midday Saturday, the CHP reported that traffic on Highway 33 and Highway 150 around the closure was bumper-to-bumper.
Ventura County Fire Battalion Chief Fred Burris said that when crews arrived on the scene Friday night, "We had multiple motorists [on Highway 101] stranded with the flames impinging on the highway. We had motorists making U-turns going opposing directions on the freeway with other motorists, not realizing the situation."
Lindbery said most of the areas burned in the wildfire were charred in the first few hours due to brush in the region being extremely dry.
"Unfortunately, the rain that we've had in California has missed Ventura County," Lindbery said. "It's fallen fairly strong in L.A. County and north of us here. But in Ventura County most of our storms have delivered less than a tenth of an inch. So that has left us very dry."
This story was updated.