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Five percent of the disastrous Woolsey Fire extending from Ventura County to Malibu has been contained as it continues to burn across 70,000 acres and fire officials brace for a windy forecast on Sunday.
“Don’t be lulled by a false sense of security,” Ventura County Fire Department Chief Mark Lawrenson said Saturday evening at a press conference at Conejo Creek South Park in Thousand Oaks. “We know tomorrow Mother Nature is going to turn her fans back on.”
Sunday forecasts predict a wind event with 30-40 mph winds that could threaten the San Fernando Valley and other Ventura County locations. The Los Angeles Police Department has a plan in place for road closures and evacuations in case the fire heads westward on Sunday.
As of Saturday evening, evacuation orders for Hidden Hills, Calabasas, Agoura, Westlake Village and Malibu remained in place in the county. Approximately 50,000 homes and 75,000 residents have been affected by the Woolsey blaze, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Chief John Benedict. Ventura County has about 90,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders.
After it was reported during a press conference early Saturday morning that two people were found dead in Malibu, Benedict said that there had been no additional fatalities by Saturday evening. However, two people were found severely burned in a vehicle along a long residential drive. Police will continue to investigate the deaths.
No lootings or arrests have so far been recorded, though Benedict warned that anyone who wanted to “take advantage” of the disaster wouldn’t get far. “Again I want to reiterate we have zero tolerance for looters,” he said.
The state has enacted the Emergency Management Assistance Compact to request assistance from other states, and 153 fire engines are on their way from surrounding states to combat the Hill and Woolsey fires.
Still, several officials pleaded for the federal government to make a FEMA major disaster declaration in order to free up more resources for the state as it fights the Woolsey, Hill and Paradise Fires.
“I would beg the president to pursue a major disaster declaration and not make this a political incident,” 27th District Sen. Henry Stern said during the press conference, referring to President Donald Trump’s tweet about the California fires early on Saturday. “We have many parties, many views out here, and this is not about politics, it’s about people.”
Trump drew widespread admonishment on Saturday when he tweeted, “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Stars including Ava DuVernay, Don Cheadle and Katy Perry criticized the tweet, while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told The Hollywood Reporter, “I think the Departmental people are professionals and in our experiences have been good in getting us the reimbursements and the federal assistance. Even if some things get politicized at the very top with snarky comments from the president.”
California Professional Firefighters president Brian K. Rice also got involved, firing off a retort to Trump. “The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines,” he wrote in a statement. “At a time when our every effort should be focused on vanquishing the destructive fires and helping the victims, the president has chosen instead to issue an uninformed political threat aimed squarely at the innocent victims of these cataclysmic fires.”
Garcetti told THR that despite the president’s message, he is confident federal assistance is on its way. “I spoke with the White House to special homeland security adviser Admiral Douglas Fears a little earlier to ensure that federal assistance comes,” he said.
When repopulation efforts begin, Agoura Hills City Council Member Linda Northrup reminded residents on Saturday evening that they should be cautious of air-quality issues. “Please, please, wear particulate masks, in particular the kids,” she said.
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