Gusty winds spark brush fires in Ventura and Riverside counties, triggering some evacuations

Ventura County firefighters on Saturday were battling a brush fire
The South fire, fueled by Santa Ana winds, has burned more than 2,900 acres and triggered evacuations in the Somis area near Santa Paula.
(Ventura County Fire Department)

Ventura County firefighters Saturday battled a brush fire fueled by Santa Ana winds that had burned more than 2,900 acres and triggered evacuations and road closures near the town of Somis.

The blaze, dubbed the South fire, was first reported about 9:38 a.m. on South Mountain near the 118 and 126 freeways, with initial reports indicating three to four aces in size.

By late morning, the wind-driven fire had ballooned to 300 acres, said Andrew Dowd, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department. As of 8:30 a.m. Sunday., the blaze had grown to 2,944 acres and was 15% contained.


“Although the weather has lightened and the winds have lightened up here, we do expect crews to continue battling this blaze all throughout the evening, with hand crews, engine companies, dozers and helicopters with night-vision goggles in place to help us suppress this fire,” Dowd said in an evening video update shared on the social media platform X.

In an earlier update, Andy VanSciver, another Fire Department spokesman, said the blaze, which was initially burning on the south side of South Mountain, had crested the top of the mountain and was burning down toward the Santa Clara River.

Engine companies were providing structural protection at residents’ homes, VanSciver said.

Evacuation orders were issued in the south-side foothills for those on East La Loma Avenue and West La Loma Avenue; East Los Angeles Avenue; and Aggen Road and La Vista Avenue.

Evacuation warnings also were issued for the South Mission Rock Road area in Santa Paula and the Saticoy Country Club area.

A temporary evacuation shelter was established at Ventura Community College. Residents can contact the information hotline at (805) 465-6650.


Road closures are also in effect from West Los Angeles Avenue north to West La Loma Avenue. This includes La Vista and Walnut avenues and Price and Aggen roads. West La Loma Avenue east from La Vista Road is also closed.

As of 5:30 p.m., the county’s sheriff’s emergency services incident dashboard showed almost 51,000 customers potentially affected by Southern California Edison’s public safety power shutoffs. More than 5,000 households were left without power.

“This is happening amid Santa Ana conditions, but we have about 100 firefighters engaged in ... ground, air and hand crews,” Dowd said.

Smoke rises beyond a ridge.
The South fire was first reported about 9:38 a.m. on South Mountain near the 118 and 126 freeways.
(Ventura County Fire Department)

In Riverside County, firefighters were battling a vegetation fire reported shortly after 9 a.m. in the 51000 block of Ida Avenue in Cabazon.

The blaze had grown to 65 acres by early afternoon, according to social media updates from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Riverside County Fire Department. By 2:30 p.m., the fire had slowed and firefighters reported it was 15% contained.

“Firefighters will remain on scene throughout today and tonight continuing to work on building containment,” the post read.

The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning until 3 p.m. Sunday for most of Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Low humidity and northeast winds of 20-25 mph and gusts of 45 mph are expected at the site of the fire, said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the weather service in Oxnard.

High winds are expected in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys in L.A. County as well as portions of eastern Ventura County, according to the weather service. The strongest blasts will rip through mountain areas.

“We’re looking at low humidity, strong gusty winds, and that combination tends to create conditions where you can have rapidly spreading fires,” Sweet said.

Though Southern California’s wildfire season typically begins in late spring and runs through early fall, a December wildfire is still a risk.

In December 2017, a strong Santa Ana event helped spark the Thomas fire, which scorched more than 280,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,000 structures and killed two people. The fire is the eighth-largest in state history, according to the Western Fire Chiefs Assn.

To see updated evacuation information for the Ventura County fire, visit:

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Times staff writer Alex Wigglesworth contributed to this report