Hundreds of miles south, authorities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties have ordered the evacuation of 75,000 homes, as a wildfire bears down on the beach town of Malibu.
Firefighters had hoped to stop the fire's march south at the wide expanse of USA 101, but it jumped the freeway as the region's notorious Santa Ana winds spiked in the early morning hours. Although an unknown number of structures have been destroyed, there were no reports of any injuries to firefighters or residents as of mid-morning Friday.
Voluntary evacuations have been added in Ventura County for Lake Sherwood and the area south of Hwy 101 and north of Potrero Road between Westlake Boulevard and Wendy Drive in Thousand Oaks.
Residents were advised to use Pacific Coast Highway to evacuate, and to avoid using canyon roads. The fire was burning on the south side of the freeway in areas that were evacuated hours earlier. Complicating matters were the traffic signals that were knocked out of service, and motorists were advised to expect lengthy delays. The 101 is now closed in both directions from Las Virgenes to Reyes Adobe, an eerie site on one of SoCal's most traveled freeways.
More than 400 firefighters from Ventura County, Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles and Cal Fire were battling the brush fire.
(Chico is about 90 miles north of Sacramento.) 35 mph winds are hampering efforts to contain the blaze, which has already destroyed the town of Paradise, burning more than 1,000 homes and the town hospital.
"This is a very risky wind driven fire".
"We grabbed our animals and some food and some clothes and we're getting the heck out of here", one man said. Also shut down were the schools of the Conejo Valley School District, headquartered in Thousand Oaks, and the Los Angeles Unified School District's Topanga Elementary Charter School.
The highway is expected to remain closed Friday morning, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.
The Woolsey Fire appeared to be the more unsafe of the two blazes, and was burning south through the Kanan Road corridor toward Malibu and the ocean.
"It was insane, because when we were sitting in traffic people were panicking", she said.
"And if you've been told to go, get out of there".
The Woolsey Fire, broke out on Thursday, not too far from the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, where a gunman killed 12 people enjoying country line dancing at college night before killing himself.