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San Luis Obispo County residents traveling south into Ventura County and Los Angeles should use caution and be prepared for detours caused by two wildfires that closed parts of Highway 101 and prompted thousands to flee their homes.
The Woolsey and Hill fires filled Southern California skies with towering columns of smoke and forced the evacuation of residents in more than 75,000 homes in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, according to the Associated Press.
Photos showed lines of flames inching down the coastal hills toward Malibu as billowing gray smoke loomed overhead while residents evacuated the area via the Pacific Coast Highway in bumper-to-bumper traffic on all four lanes.
The fires erupted suddenly, starting with the Hill Fire, which was reported in the Hill Canyon area of Santa Rosa Valley at about 2 p.m. Thursday. It quickly charred thousands of acres and jumped Highway 101, which was closed in the area overnight, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
Highway 101 reopened in both directions in Ventura County, but then closed Friday farther south in Los Angeles County due to the Woolsey Fire burning near the border between the two counties.
That fire — which ignited in Woolsey Canyon east of Simi Valley on Thursday — had burned 10,000 acres west of Los Angeles by Friday evening, according to the Associated Press, and continued to burn toward Malibu, which was under a complete evacuation order.
The Ventura County Fire Department said there was zero containment on the Woolsey Fire.
Drivers heading south to Los Angeles encountered closures on both sides of Highway 101 from Reyes Adobe Road in Agoura Hills to Valley Circle Boulevard in Los Angeles, according to Caltrans District 7. Highway 1 was closed at the Ventura-Los Angeles county line and from the junction of Highway 10 in L.A. to Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
Travelers could continue to connect to Highway 118 through Simi Valley and then on to Highway 5. Highway 126, which intersects with Highway 101 in Ventura, provides another connection to Highway 5. San Luis Obispo County drivers who want to avoid the fire area altogether can cut across to Highway 5 via Highway 46, Highway 58 or Highway 166.
Battling the Hill and Woolsey fires
The Camarillo-area fire, dubbed the Hill Fire, was fed by 25- to 30-mph winds that pushed flames across Highway 101 and toward Pacific Coast Highway, Ventura County Firespokesman Mike Lindbery said Thursday night.
Point Mugu Naval Air Station and a communications array on Laguna Peak were in the fire’s path, he added.
The Ventura County Fire Department on Friday morning estimated the blaze had burned 6,100 acres, a smaller number than a Thursday afternoon estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 acres. Later in the day, the department reported no significant growth in the size of the fire.
Firefighters from Ventura and Los Angeles counties also continued to battle the Woolsey Fire under a unified command as it burned toward the coast.
The National Park Service said Friday that Western Ranch, a movie set built by Paramount Pictures in Agoura, in the hills outside Los Angeles, had burned down, according to the AP.
Follow Caltrans District 7 on Twitter for continuing updates on road closures.
Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton contributed reporting to this story.