Woolsey Fire Explodes to 70,000 Acres Overnight With Two Deaths Reported and 250,000 People Evacuated

The Woolsey fire exploded to 70,000 acres overnight and has claimed two lives, destroyed scores of homes and forced 250,000 people to evacuate across a wide swath of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, officials said Saturday.

The fire spread in several directions, burning homes in Malibu, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks while threatening parts of Simi Valley, West Hills and numerous Ventura County communities. The fire has doubled in size since Friday afternoon.

Firefighters staged a furious battle overnight to save Pepperdine University in Malibu, where hundreds of students and staff were sheltering in place.

“We have fuels that are in critical drought state right now,” L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told reporters at a Saturday morning news conference. “This is the sixth year of … drought in this region. Our firefighters have been facing some extreme, tough fire conditions that they said that they’ve never seen in their lives.”

The all-out attack by air and ground resources appears to have prevented any major losses at Pepperdine, though some outbuildings may have been damaged, the university said. It was a tense night, with those on campus taking refuge in several buildings, including the library, as the firefight unfolded.

Two fatalities were reported Friday afternoon in the 33000 block of Mulholland Highway in Malibu, according to L.A. County sheriff’s officials. Homicide detectives and coroner’s investigators could not reach the area until Saturday morning.

Local officials pleaded with residents to remain vigilant and heed evacuation orders so as not to hamper the firefighters’ work.

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SOURCE: LA Times, Ruben Vives, Laura Newberry, Jaclyn Cosgrove, and Christine Mai-Duc