A southern California wildfire threatened more than 3,000 homes and forced the evacuation of a university on Thursday, burning more than 10,000 acres as it spread down the Pacific Coast.
The Springs Fire was 10 percent contained as of Friday morning, but the Santa Ana winds and extremely dry climate are expected to cause the blaze to grow, said Ventura County Fire Capt. Bill Nash. Six air tankers, which drop thousands of gallons of flame retardant, will resume flights Friday morning after being grounded Thursday because of high winds and radiant heat.
"We've got hot, dirty, unglamorous firefighting work going on right now, guys with shovels trying to scratch out lines on the ground," Captain Nash told NBC News early Friday. "We've got those guys on these steep hillsides in the dark with nothing but the light of the fire and a flashlight."
The fire broke out Thursday morning along US Highway 101 near the city of Camarillo, 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. There have been no reported injuries related to the fire, but 15 homes were damaged Thursday. California State University at Channel Islands in Camarillo allowed on-campus residents to return Friday, but cancelled all classes.
"Where it's burning right now, the population is mostly ranches and camps and rural-type properties," Nash said. "But it doesn't have to go very far to get to some expensive homes and more populated areas. ... It came out literally on the beach and now it's essentially burning down the mountainside toward Malibu."
An outbreak of wildfires in California has marked an early start for fire season, which usually begins in mid-June, fire officials say.
The Summit Fire in Riverside County destroyed an additional home on Thursday, after destroying one home and injuring two firefighters Wednesday. It has been 55 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). Another large-scale blaze in northern California consumed 10,000 acres near the remote town of Butte Meadows, but no homes were threatened. That fire is 10 percent contained.
A mixture of conditions – dry vegetation, high temperatures, and low humidity – are fueling the early fire season, Nash of the Ventura County fire department told NBC News.
Friday "may be the hottest day of the week, and the humidity we do expect to plummet," he said. "We’re faced with a situation right now where the vegetation on the hillsides, the moisture level is what we typically see in August."
“This is really dry,” said Stuart Seto, a specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, Calif., in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “The fire in Camarillo Springs really jumped up from nothing to 100 acres in no time at all.”
The cause of the fire is not known.
Fire officials are warning people in the area to be prepared to evacuate quickly.
"We advise anybody in the area to be prepared. Wildfires are very unpredictable – we don't know what direction it's going to go," Nash said. "We really want people to be prepared. It's better to do it now before a sheriff's deputy is knocking on your door."
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.