Firefighters successfully halt forward progress of the Erbes Fire at 250 acres

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CAL Fire wildland firefighters return to their trucks after stopping the Erbes Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. The Erbes fire grew to 250 acres before forward progress was stopped. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Ryan Bough

On Jan. 14 shortly after the National Weather Service issued Ventura County a red flag warning, a wildfire broke out.

Dubbed the Erbes Fire, the fire ignited off of Erbes Road in Thousand Oaks near the 23 Freeway. The Erbes Fire was first reported at around 5 p.m and quickly grew to 250 acres.

According to the Venture County Fire Department Public Information Officer’s (PIO) Twitter, forward progress of the fire was stopped around 8 p.m.

Ventura County Fire Department Captain Bob Welsbie spoke with Reporter Joe Curley from the Ventura County Star about what the fire crews first encountered when they arrived on scene.

“When crews initially got on scene they encountered extremely low relative humidities, and gusty winds (which) caused the fire to spot pretty frequently,” reported Welsbie. “Due to a coordinated effort with aerial resources and boots on the ground, we were able to get a handle on it.”

Cal Fire Wildland Firefighters hike up a charred hill and return to their Trucks after fighting the Erbes Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
Cal Fire Wildland Firefighters hike up a charred hill and return to their Trucks after fighting the Erbes Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA. on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

As spot fires began to emerge on the other side of Erbes Road, structures immediately began to be threatened by the blaze. Over 70 homes were given evacuation orders as the fire continued to grow.

The American Red Cross set up a temporary evacuation center for the residents affected by the evacuation order at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center.

American Red Cross PIO Dave Wagner discussed using the Teen Center as an evacuation shelter.

“We used this shelter during the Woolsey Fire. We actually had 100 cots in here. We had people stay for about two weeks,” explained Wagner. “During COVID we want to keep everybody separated so we are not doing congregate shelters like that. We are doing separate hotel and motel rooms for people.”

Evacuees that arrived at the center were tested to ensure they were healthy and well, then were assigned a motel room until they are back on their feet. Residents were also tested for Covid-19 symptoms with a series of questions and a temperature reading.

Liz Lepey, a registered nurse with the American Red Cross takes Dave Wagner's temperature at the Red cross evacuation center during the Erbes Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA, on Thursday, Jan. 14.
Liz Lepey, a registered nurse with the American Red Cross takes Dave Wagner's temperature at the Red cross evacuation center during the Erbes Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA, on Thursday, Jan. 14. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

According to Wagner, evacuees that should have symptoms of Covid-19 are not turned away, instead they are isolated and given the care that they need.

Wagner also spoke about what residents should do if they are in an evacuation area.

“As long as there are people in front of this fire, we want them to get out of the mandatory evacuation area and into a safe situation. Whether they go to friends’ or family or a motel in the valley or Camarillo that’s out of the way or come here, we have a place for everybody,” said Wagner.

As the winds died down, some residents near the fire chose not to evacuate.

One such example is Thousand Oaks resident Christine Cahill, who has been evacuated for three fires in the last six years. Cahill explained why she didn’t evacuate despite being so close to the blaze.

“I walked down the street towards where the firemen and sheriffs had their command center and talked to them and about a half an hour later they said I didn’t have to evacuate, that they had the fire under control and the winds had died down and so they said everything was okay,” said Cahill. “ I came back home and now the winds are kicking back up again so I’m a little nervous.”

VCFD dozer returns to the tractor/trailer after constructing dozer lines for the Erbes Fire
A VCFD Bull Dozer finishes its rounds at the Erbes Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA ,on Jan. 14, 2021. Photo credit: Tara Brown

The Erbes brush fire was successfully contained at 250 acres and all evacuation orders have been lifted.

Multiple departments responded to the fire including, Ventura County Fire Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, CAL Fire and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Almost three dozen fire engines responded along with three helicopters and two bulldozers. Due to the firefighters quick actions, no homes were damaged from the fire.

The red flag warning will end late Friday afternoon Jan. 15, the strongest Santa Ana winds are expected to be throughout Friday morning. Fire Crews are remaining overnight to monitor the Erbes Fire site as winds begin to pick up.