Woolsey Fire Burns More Than 98,000 Acres, Containment at 78 Percent

UPDATE as of 6:48 pm 11/16 :The Woolsey Fire is now 78 percent contained, with the acreage holding at 98,362, according to the county fire department.

UPDATE as of 6:48 pm 11/15: The Woolsey Fire is now 62 percent contained, according to county fire officials. The size is holding at 98,362 acres.

MALIBU (CNS) - A firefighter from Washington state who's been battling the Woolsey Fire was injured this morning when he was struck by a vehicle on Pacific Coast Highway, and containment of the blaze increased to 57 percent.

The incident involving the firefighter occurred about 12:30 a.m. on Pacific Coast Highway near Dear Creek Road, according to a California Highway Patrol dispatcher. The firefighter, who's from South Kitsap Fire and Rescue in Washington state, was airlifted to Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, ABC7 reported.

The car was driven by a person who lives in the area and the firefighter's injuries were described as moderate to major, according to NBC4.

Firefighters plan to take advantage today of weaker winds to increase containment of the week-old Woolsey Fire burning through Malibu after scorching through more than 98,000 acres of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with full containment expected no earlier than Monday.

A Red Flag Warning expired Wednesday afternoon and onshore winds -- not the warm offshore Santa Ana winds that have been sweeping the region -- were forecast for Thursday afternoon and conditions were expected to improve into the weekend before offshore winds return Sunday afternoon.

Since erupting last Thursday, the fire has charred 98,362 acres in L.A. and Ventura counties, destroyed 504 structures, and damaged 96 others. It is 57 percent contained, with full containment expected Monday, a day later than previously announced.

The death toll appeared to have risen to three, with authorities confirming Wednesday the discovery of a charred body in a burned-out Agoura home in the 32000 block of Lobo Canyon Road. Family members said the victim was 73-year-old Alfred Deciutiis, a retired oncologist. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office has not released the names of the any of the victims. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department called the discovery an “apparent fire- related death.”

An official with the coroner's office said the office was notified about the discovery around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday. Sheriff's Homicide Bureau detectives and coroner's office personnel continued their investigation into the death Wednesday.

Sheriff's officials said deputies went to the home in response to calls from relatives who said they were unable to reach the man. Deputies initially found no sign of him, but they brought in cadaver dogs, leading to discovery of the remains.

A woman who lives in the neighborhood told NBC4 she didn't know the man who lived in the home, but she said he “had been ill, from what I understand.”

The other two victims were found Friday in a burned-out vehicle on a long driveway in the 33000 block of Mulholland Highway. Authorities said they suspect the driver became disoriented amid the flames.

Residents of Malibu complained to fire officials about what they perceived was a lack of resources in place to protect homes. At a town hall meeting in Santa Monica Tuesday night, some evacuated residents walked out after feeling their concerns were not being addressed.

State Assemblyman Richard Bloom represents Malibu and told the Los Angeles Times that in every major fire, questions are raised about how resources are used.

“Why were they here and not here?,” Bloom said. “These are important questions. They deserve answers. The responses are never quite perfect. What you're looking for is coverage everywhere, which is virtually impossible given the limitations of resources.”

Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Dave Richardson told residents resources were in place, but the speed of the fire prompted them to evacuate residents, some of whom called 911 seeking help from the raging fire, the Times reported.

“I've been in the business for over 32 years (and) I have never seen fire activity and the fire spread that we've seen,” Richardson told the crowd. “That's the reality. Our firefighters were out there putting their life on the line to protect you and the communities.”

An estimated 57,000 structures are still considered to be threatened by the flames, which erupted last Thursday in Ventura County, and continued to be fanned by winds that gusted as high as 40 mph Wednesday. The fire has forced the evacuation of more than 265,000 people in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, although evacuation orders are being lifted.

On Wednesday morning, all remaining evacuation orders in Calabasas were lifted. Residents were allowed to return to select areas on Tuesday.

Officials also lifted evacuations in a swath of Malibu, all of which had been ordered evacuated last week. Evacuations were lifted in an area from Pacific Coast Highway between Carbon Canyon Road on the east to Webb Way on the west, from the ocean to the northern city limit. Residents of the Serra Retreat and Sweetwater Mesa neighborhoods were also allowed to return.

The Malibu Colony neighborhood remained closed, along with the Civic Center area.

Evacuations were also lifted near Agoura Hills on Kanan Road from Cornell Road to Malibu View Court; the area southeast of Kanan Road, including the Saratoga Hills neighborhood; and Cornell Road from Kanan Road, north of Wagon Road.

Despite the progress being made in certain areas, fire officials said there are still active flames burning. Cal Fire Assistant Chief Chris Anthony noted there was significant fire activity overnight on the fire's western flank in Ventura County, particularly in the Sycamore Canyon and Point Mugu area.

Anthony also said there was still a fire threat in the Malibu Canyon area on the eastern flank, and hand crews worked Wednesday to establish a containment line in that area from below the Ventura (101) Freeway south to Pepperdine University.

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

Photos: Getty Images, Monica Rix, Andrew Mollenbeck, Kris Ankarlo, Corbin Carson

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