Pictured: Obscured by fire smoke a fixed wing air tanker drops retardant along Santa Paula edge of Maria Fire on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 1. 

by Kimberly Rivers

The 6 p.m. press conference held in Camarillo highlighted progress made and ongoing concerns regarding the Maria Fire.

10:10 p.m. evacuation areas lifted:North Greentree Drive, Kingsgrove Drive, Donlon Road, San Canyon Road, La Cumbre Road, North Olive Hill Drive, North Paso Flores Road, Quail Canyon Road.

Green area, southeastern area evacuation area lifted. www.vcemergency.com

“We had a productive day today,” said John McNeil, with Ventura County Fire Department. “We continued to have challenges with this fire.” Some of the challenges related to accessing certain areas. “We are making progress,” he said and described the Somis and Saticoy edges of the fire where crews increased control at the fire perimeter. They had a good handle at the “toe of the slope,” where the hillside flattens out because it was easier to access.

As for the Santa Paula side of the fire, McNeil referred to the forecasted wind shift that pushed the fire into the bed of the Santa Clara river at the base of the North side of South Mountain.  In response significant numbers of aircraft were brought in, and “two structures sustained damage.”

Crews are still closely watching the area east of the start point of the fire, the top of South Mountain, which has not burnt. 

The fire began shortly after 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31, at the top of South Mountain near the communication towers. Many of the tower house communications equipment used by county agencies and services.

“It was a day of challenges,” said Mark Lorenzen, chief of Ventura County Fire Department about efforts to hold the perimeter on Friday, Nov. 1. He said the CalFire incident management team has been activated and they are now in “unified command.” He reported there were 1300 firefighters from throughout California and crews from the western United States battled the flames throughout the day. “Thank you for treating our community like it’s yours,” Lorenzen said to the crews from out of Ventura Count.

Lorenzen emphasized, “there is still cause for caution and concern. We are not out of the woods yet.” The next day will be critical with 24 hours of fire weather expected similar to the conditions on the night the fire started and expanded.

Bill Ayub, Ventura County Sheriff emphasized the safety threat posed to firefighting aircraft by “hobby drones,” and repeated the call to all drone flyers to stay ground while fires are burning.

According to Ayub, 45 law enforcement officers are patrolling the evacuated areas, including Santa Paula police and California Highway Patrol officers. “2700 structures are threatened,” and 10,800 people are under evacuation orders. The evacuation shelter at Camarillo Community Center, 1605 Burnley remains open. The Todd Road jail is closed to the public for visiting. Staff and prisoners are sheltering place.