Pete Demetriou

UPDATE: Some Schools, Businesses Working to Get Up and Running After Woolsey Fire

November 26, 2018 - 8:18 am

(KNX 1070/CNS/AP) -- As people continue to repopulate areas devastated by the Woolsey Fire, some schools and businesses are working to get back up and running. 

Clean-up has been underway at a number of locations, but some schools will stay closed until health and utility officials finish quality testing. 

Webster Elementary is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Wednesday. 

Point Dume Marine Science, Juan Cabrillo Elementary and Malibu High hope to have their doors open by sometime next week.

Firefighters are close to getting everyone back to their homes and businesses in and around Malibu. 

Some areas outside of the city limits are still closed-off due to the Woolsey Fire, and at last check about 700 people were still under evacuation orders.

Highway 23 is closed between Pacific Coast Highway and Country Ranch Road, and a portion of Muholland Highway is also closed.  Authorities say there are still utility lines down, so not everyone has power yet.

The Woolsey Fire is now 100 percent contained and 96,949 acres. The fire has destroyed 1,643 structures and damaged 364.

Rain was expected last week in the Woolsey Fire burn zone, and there were worries about slides and flooding.

Los Angeles County Fire said there's fear it could trigger flooding, mudslides and debris flows in some burned areas.

To help people in those areas prepare for possible rain problems, free sandbags were available at many fire stations and some other locations in both Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

For a list of fire stations and a map to see where you can get sandbags, click here.

For a list of  FD stations in the north county and Ventura area offering sandbags:  

Meanwhile,Southern California Edison is facing more legal action over the Woolsey Fire. It's now the target of a lawsuit by 17 people who suffered losses in the fire -- and say the utility played a role in the tragedy by failing to cut-off power in high-wind areas before the flames started. Their lawsuit was filed just a day after Edison was sued by a Ventura County man who lost his home and claims the company's equipment started the fire.

The suit accuses the utility of negligence because the fire started near Edison-owned power lines.

A power outage had been reported just two minutes before the fire broke out at a nearby substation. 

The suit also alleges the Woolsey Fire started under the same conditions as the Thomas Fire nearly a year ago.

 

Malibu residents started picking up their mail in downtown Los Angeles, and Disaster Assistance Centers were opened to help residents impacted by the nearly 100,000-acre blaze.

Customers were reminded to bring proper photo ID to obtain their mail at the USPS Facility at 7101 S. Central Ave. between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to a statement from the City of Malibu.

The Disaster Assistance Centers will be closed today, but will open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Thursday and open again Friday and next Saturday, Nov. 24  from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They are located at the former Malibu Courthouse at 23525 Civic Center Way, and at the Conrad L. Hilton Foundation, 30440 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills.

Meanwhile evacuation orders were lifted Saturday in the Malibu Colony Cove neighborhood from the ocean on the south, the Malibu City Limit on the north, Puerco Canyon Road on the east and Paradise Cove Road on the west, and for the Las Virgines Road/Malibu Canyon Road areas from the Malibu City limit on the south to Mulholland Highway on the north, with Mulholland Highway still closed westbound from Malibu Canyon Road and Latigo Canyon, Corral Canyon, Ramirez Canyon and Puerco Canyon roads remained closed north of PCH.

Evacuation orders were lifted in the Topanga area from PCH to Mulholland Drive on Friday.

More residents of the Malibu Colony Cove area were notified they can return home at 2 p.m. Sunday if they live in an area bounded by the ocean on the south, Malibu City limit on the north, Paradise Cove on the east and Guernsey Avenue on the west. Latigo Canyon and Corral Canyon roads will be open from PCH to the Malibu City limit but areas north of those locations will remain closed.

Residents of Malibu Lakes, Broad Beach and Seminole Springs were notified that if conditions remain favorable they will be allowed to return to their homes Monday.

The areas of Malibu Lakes where residents can return at 3 p.m. Monday are between Mulholland Highway on the north, Bulldog Mountain Way on the south, Lake Shore Drive on the east and Shadow Creek Drive on the west. Mulholland Highway will remain closed eastbound at Cornell Road and westbound at Troutdale Road due to bridge damage.

Also at 3 p.m. Monday, residents of the Seminole Springs neighborhood can return if they live between Kanan Road on the north, Cadenhorn Drive on the south, Trousdale Drive on the east and Seminole Drive on the west. Westbound Mulholland Highway west of Seminole Drive and southbound Kanan Road south of Triunfo Canyon road will remain closed.

At 9 p.m. Monday, residents of the Broad Beach area of Malibu Colony Cove neighborhood can return in an area bounded by the ocean on the south, Malibu City limit on the north, Guernsey Avenue on the east and the Ventura County line on the west.

Pepperdine University officials announced the campus would be without power for 12 hours beginning at 8 a.m. Monday so Southern California Edison can replace four transmission poles damaged in the fire.

The Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 29 in Malibu and Las Virgenes Municipal Water District determined tap water is safe to drink and it is no longer necessary to boil tap water for drinking or cooking, officials said.

Evacuation centers in Los Angeles County were located at Pierce College, 7100 El Rancho Dr. in Woodland Hills; and at Palisades Charter High School, 15777 Bowdoin St. in Pacific Palisades.

Some road restrictions remained in place in the affected areas, however, and residents of Piuma Canyon were advised they would need to access their homes via Cold Canyon Road or the eastern entrance to Piuma Canyon Road, with no access to the area allowed from Malibu Canyon Road.

Also:
   -- Pacific Coast Highway is closed southbound at the L.A. County line to Puerco Canyon Road;
   -- Puerco Canyon Rd. is closed at the Malibu city limit;
   -- Las Posas Rd. to L.A. County line is residents only, with no northbound traffic from PCH;
   -- Westlake Blvd. is closed Southbound from Potrero Rd.
   -- S. Las Virgenes is closed from Mulholland
   -- S. Kanan is closed at Malibu View Dr.
   -- Everything is closed south of Mulholland Hwy & West of Cornell Rd.
   -- L.A. County public works has closed Chesebro Road at the bridge between Driver Ave and Balkins.

Fire officials warned people returning to their homes to beware of changing fire conditions and adhere to road closures and shifting evacuation zones.

"Burned out power poles, burned and damaged homes, debris-filled roadways, broken gas lines and burned guard rails pose serious safety hazards to residents attempting to return to the area," according to a statement from fire officials.

Residents were urged not to try to restore their own natural gas service but to contact SoCal Gas to do it. They were warned to be mindful as they drive through their neighborhoods that workers were still busy restoring services. "As traffic flow is introduced into these areas, people may be more focused on the damage and not aware of their immediate surroundings," an official statement said.

"... The Woolsey Fire is unlike any previous fire in the Santa Monica Mountains due to the vast destruction and devastation to homes and critical infrastructure."

Additional fire information for Los Angeles County can be found at www.lacounty.gov/woolseyfire. Malibu also has established a website with updated fire information at www.malibucity.org/woolsey.

Firefighters say better weather is helping them surround more of the Woolsey Fire.

Ventura County Fire Captain Stan Ziegler tells KNX some possible light rain next week would help with firefighting efforts.

But he says officials are concerned about possible mud and debris flow.

Ziegler says people in the area are being updated on the possibility and what to do to prepare.

The fire is now 88 percent surrounded. The Woosley Fire is holding at 96,949 acres. The fire has destroyed 1,130 structures and damaged 300.

Ventura County’s assistance center is now open to help the victims of the Woolsey and Hill fires recover. It’s a one-stop center here at the Grant Brimhall Library where a person can find all kinds of services.

The county’s Curtis Updike says FEMA, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are also standing by to help whether you lost your home or if it was damaged by the fires. 

FEMA recommends you go through your insurance first then fill out an application for assistance with short-term needs like housing or repairs. The center is open through Tuesday.

Also go to http://venturacountyrecovers.org/ for more.

Here's a map of the damage assessment from the Woolsey Fire from the Ventura County Sheriff Office of Emergency Services.

Governor Jerry Brown surveyed wildfire damage Thursday and join state, local and federal officials, including U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the state's top fire and emergency management officials.

California needs to design safer cities.  He and the Interior Secretary both said the legacy of Woolsey Fire, and other fires burning in the state, is a commitment to rethinking land management and disaster evacuation plans. 

That’s one solution being proposed by the Governor in the wake of the Woolsey Fire. As he toured the Woolsey fire, he said Californians will have to build their cities more smartly, and build shelters so people can escape when the fires get out of hand and also deal with climate change. 

Meanwhile, a firefighter on deployment to the Woolsey Fire, from Washington state, was hit by a car early this morning,  on the PCH. The firefighter was hit on the PCH/Deer Creek Road and is recovering at Los Robles Medical Center. The injuries are not life-threatening.

Full containment is expected Monday, a day later than previously announced.

A brush fire in Ventura County continues to grow Thursday.  It broke out just before 2 a.m. this morning, east of Santa Paula, near Highway 126 and Briggs Road.  It's reportedly between 75 and 100 acres. 

Water-dropping helicopters have been hitting the area, which has been hard for firefighters on the ground to get to.  No homes are threatened at this point.  Fire crews hope the winds will continue to stay calm, so they can get a better handle on it.

The Woolsey Fire has now blamed for a third death.  

A man found dead in the ashes of his Agoura Hills home Wednesday has been identified by his family. They say the victim is a 73-year-old retired oncologist.  A neighbor told CBS 2 that the man had been stressed lately.

The LA County Sheriff's Department called the discovery an "apparent fire-related death."  Homicide detectives are investigating, but it appears to be the third death related to the Woolsey Fire, that decimated the neighborhood.

The announcement of a third death came as crews gain ground on the massive brush-fire, despite a new flare-up near Point Mugu Wednesday morning.

There's no word yet on the names of two other people who were killed by the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, but KNX has learned a little more about the circumstances. Their badly-burned bodies were found inside a vehicle in a long residential driveway on Mulholland Highway near Westlake Boulevard in an area where most of the nearby structures had also been hit by flames.

Authorities actually got word of the bodies on Friday but couldn't go to the scene until yesterday because of safety concerns.

WHO CAN GO HOME NOW:

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department jointly announced the repopulation of the Carlisle Canyon area that was impacted by the  fire on Friday:

Carlisle Road, west from Mulholland Highway will be reopened beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Friday morning.

There will be a hard closure on Mulholland Highway at Country Ranch Road, preventing vehicles from exiting the area at that point.

The LA County Sheriff's Department also announced the repopulation of the following areas:

the following areas inside of the City of Malibu will be opened beginning at 2:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon: 

• A FULL OPENING of the Civic Center area

• This will include:

o From the ocean (south)

o Malibu City limit (north)

o East of Corral Canyon Road (west) / 25700 Block of Pacific Coast Highway

o Serra Road (east)

NOTICE: PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY REMAINS CLOSED FOR BUSINESS

Las Virgenes Road is closed at Mulholland Highway. No vehicle, visitor, or resident access south of Mulholland Highway to the Hindu Temple or Las Virgenes Canyon Road neighborhood

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also announced:

• A FULL OPENING of the Topanga area from Pacific Coast Highway to Mulholland Drive

• All areas north of the Malibu City limits

o South of the Interstate 101 Freeway

o East of Malibu Canyon Road o West of the Los Angeles City limit

EXCEPTIONS:

o There is a southbound road closure on Las Virgenes Road at Mulholland Highway -preventing traffic between that point and the Malibu City limit

o Residents of the Piuma Canyon area will be required to access their homes via Cold Canyon Road or the eastern entrance to Piuma Canyon Road - Access will NOT be available via Malibu Canyon Road

o Vehicles will not be able to exit Piuma Road westbound to Malibu Canyon Road

Last week, evacuation orders have now been lifted in the city of Calabasas including Mulholland Highway from Mulholland Drive to Eddingham Avenue, Southeast of Mulholland Highway to the intersection of Summit to Summitt Mountainway and Adamsville Avenue and includes neighborhoods of Calabasas Highlands, Mulholland Heights and Mountain Park.

Most Calabasas residents are getting the green light to head home. Calabasas Mayor Fred Gains says people still need to stay away from their homes if they live south of Mulholland Highway.

Mandatory evacuations have been lifted in several communities, but thousands are still out of their homes.

LA County reported that parts of Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills were no longer under evacuation orders, including neighborhoods that are:

South of Agoura Road

East of Cornell Road

West of Las Virgenes Road

North of Mulholland Highway

*Per Southern California Edison, sections of the city of Agoura Hills may be without power at the time of the reopening of the area.

The northern section of the unincorporated Topanga is also no longer under evac orders, including neighborhoods:

North of Viewridge Road

South of the Los Angeles City limit

East of Topanga Canyon Boulevard

West of Double Ranch Road or Santa Maria Road

Some Malibu evacuations were lifted as of 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

Residents only will be allowed to return to the area of Pacific Coast Highway from Carbon Canyon Road on the east to Webb Way on the west, from the ocean to the northern city limit.

The Serra Retreat and Sweetwater Mesa neighborhoods will also be reopened to residents only.

Fire officials say the Malibu Colony neighborhood and Civic Center area will remain closed. 

The following areas inside the city of Malibu:

Pacific Coast Highway from Carbon Canyon Road (east) to Webb Way (west)

From the ocean to the northern City limit

Neighborhoods of Serra Retreat and Sweetwater Mesa

Residents from the Westlake area of Thousand Oaks, West Hills and Bell Canyon were allowed to come back Monday night. 

More evacuation orders were lifted in parts of Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also announced the repopulation of the areas of Agoura Hills and Westlake Village (Los Angeles County side) which will be between Chesebro Road and Westlake Boulevard and north of the 101 Freeway. No access will be available to neighborhoods south of the 101 Freeway.

A massive flare-up on the Woolsey fire caused some tense times in Lake Sherwood until the fire moved west and fire crews mopped up dangerous portions of the fire-line on Tuesday.

One family evacuated from Lake Sherwood suffered another blow when a thief broke into their van in an Encino parking lot and stole everything they'd taken with them.

That included family photos and documents. Alexa Warren tells CBS-2 some of the valuables turned up in Marina Del Rey, after an alert on social media. Security video on the Encino parking lot shows a thief breaking the van's back window and taking everything.

The LA County Sheriff's Department released more information Tuesday on Facebook on more repopulation areas:

Hidden Hills, West of Valley Circle Boulevard, East of Crummer Canyon Road, and North of the Interstate 101 Freeway to the northern city limits.

Calabasas will have limited areas reopened which will include West of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Northwest of Mulholland Highway, North of Stunt Road, East of Las Virgenes Road,  East of the Lost Hills Road neighborhoods (including Lost Springs and Saratoga) and  South of the Los Angeles/Ventura County Line.

The sheriff's department said in a Facebook post that per SoCal Edison, sections of Calabasas may be without power at the time of the reopening of the area.

The City of Agoura Hills will reopen its impacted areas from Chesebro Road on the eastern border and Agoura Road (north and south sides of the road) from Chesebro Road to the west.

Incident command spokesperson Lisa Cox tells KNX it's in the Point Mugu area. It looks like the flare-up is dying down right now in this remote area.

The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades will stay closed to the public until Thanksgiving Day, because of the Woolsey Fire. The Villa has been used over the last few days, as a place for fire crews to rest and recover.   Officials say both the Getty Villa and Getty Center are safe and have not been threatened. The Getty Center remains open and operating under its normal hours.

Meanwhile, at a community meeting Tuesday night on the Woolsey fire, some Malibu evacuees were frustrated by what they're hearing or not hearing from officials. When they didn't get what they were seeking, some people started shouting. Others were displeased by the disruptions. 

Officials acknowledged the frustrations and told the crowd they're doing what they can to lift evacuations, improve water quality, restore utilities and repair roads. That prompted more shouting. There's a lot of gratitude for the work of first-responders. Incident Commander David Richardson, of the LA County Fire Department, said "may God bless each and every one of you" at the meeting. 

Richardson told the crowd firefighters faced extraordinary conditions and it quickly became a "life safety" issue. Richardson says he and other first-responders have never a fire spread as quickly as this one.

Some people question why there were no firefighters in their neighborhood when their homes burned. One woman told KNX reporter Claudia Peschiutta Tuesday night said it was staggering to see house after house go and there was nothing happening from the fire department. Another person told Peschiutta there was a lot of anger floating around as to whether there was a good response. He said in the past, firefighters are beyond dedicated and he was slow to criticize them.

Patience may be wearing thinner among evacuees who know they have no longer have a home.

SCHOOLS:

Cal-State Channel Islands has made the decision to cancel classes through the Thanksgiving holiday. Resident students will still be able to access dining and student health services as needed, during the break. The campus is currently safe and is not under any evacuation orders.

Staff has been told to report to work as scheduled.  Classes will resume on November 26. 

All LAUSD schools were back in session Tuesday, expect for Topanga Elementary Charter School, which is closed because of the Woolsey fire. 

Moorpark Community College,  Pepperdine University at both the Malibu and Calabasas campuses, and all Malibu schools within the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified remain closed.  There are also no classes Tuesday at all Conejo Valley, Las Virgenes and Oak Park district schools. 

Pepperdine University's Malibu and Calabasas campuses will remain closed through Thanksgiving. Regularly scheduled classes and events held on the Malibu and Calabasas campuses will resume on November 26. All classes held on the Malibu and Calabasas campuses of Pepperdine University will remain canceled Monday, November 12, and Tuesday, November 13. For more information on Pepperdine University class updates, click here.

Meanwhile, Southern California Edison is being investigated by state regulators for its possible role in starting the Woolsey Fire, which is now in its fifth day.

Public Utilities Commission (PUC) wants to know more about an alert that Edison put-out on Thursday, just two minutes before Cal Fire says the Woolsey Fire began. It stated that a substation circuit near the origin of the fire relayed or sensed a disturbance on the circuit, but no further details were given.

The PUC has, so far, been unable to get access to that origin site. Neither has Cal Fire, which is the agency that determines the sources of ignition of fires and the way that the fires spread.

Firefighters are among those who may have suffered losses in the destructive Woolsey fire.  Members of the LA County Fire department are still hard at work battling the Woolsey fire but six of them have also had their homes go up in flames. LA County Fire Captain Dave Gillote tells KNX that commanders are also trying to get crew members off the lines if their homes are evacuated, but that's proving to be difficult.  Two LA County lifeguards were actually hard at work saving animals, including llamas and horses in Malibu, when they learned their homes had been lost.

LAPD Captain Paul Vernon says he understands that people are anxious to get back to their homes,  which are hopefully still standing, but says they're leaving those decisions to the experts. Captain Vernon says they added additional officers, to help those who are allowed back into fire areas, to retrieve their belongings.

During a Sunday morning press conference, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said this is the new fire norm in the state. He pleaded people to heed evacuation warnings and do not to stay in the homes to try to defend them. He stressed to let firefighters do their jobs and protect homes.

Evacuees in the fire zone have vented their frustrations at a community meeting Sunday.

People told officials they don’t feel comfortable sending their kids back to school because of the shifting winds and concerns of possible toxic ash in the air after the Woolsey fire burned through the Santa Susana Field lab. Many at the meeting say they want independent testing done outside of the DTSC. Also on the minds of people... when they can go home or at least check on their property.

For more information on evacuation orders, centers, animals shelters and how to help victims, click here.

Malibu City Councilman Jefferson Wagner was reported to be in the hospital after losing his own home to the Woolsey fire Sunday. His medical problem was revealed by fellow Council member Skylar Peak during Sunday morning's media briefing on the fire situation. He is in the ICU unit of a hospital in Santa Monica after trying but failing to save his own home from the fire. There's no word yet on his condition. His longtime partner Candace Brown tells KNX that while he was trying to protect the house from the flames he developed severe breathing problems and became unable to speak. The home itself was burned to the ground.

Last week, at least 200 deputies will be in the five Los Angeles County cities affected by the fire -- Westlake Village, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Malibu -- doing property evaluations and looking for any possible looters, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Chief John Benedict said.

"There is zero tolerance for any looting," Benedict said.

Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Eric Buschow said at least two people have been arrested on suspicion of looting in his county.

Los Angeles County fire strike teams and water dropping aircraft were working to contain the flames on or around the Pepperdine campus. No permanent structures have been lost, but video from the campus showed at least one vehicle and several bicycles scorched by flames.

The fire started in Ventura County but raced into Los Angeles County, chewed its way through brush and into neighborhoods of Westlake Village and Malibu. 

Check vcemergency.com for the latest evacuation orders in Ventura County. For L.A. County, check lacounty.gov/woolseyfire.

We have the latest information on evacuation centers, school closures:

For a list of evacuation centers and school closures, go here.

Here's how to help CA Fire Victims.

Hill Fire:

Officials say the Hill Fire, which burned more than 4,500 acres, was likely caused by human activity.

The fire in Ventura County is now 100 percent contained.

Fire investigators are asking anyone with information about the possible cause of the fire to contact CalFire's tip line at 1-800-468-4408. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.

For a comprehensive read at all California wildfires right now, click here.