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Ventura County brush fire started at homeless encampment, officials say

July 13, 2010 |  7:20 pm

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A brush fire that burned about 50 acres Tuesday afternoon in Camarillo started in a homeless encampment, officials said.

The blaze was about 60% contained shortly before 7 p.m., the Ventura County Fire Department said.

Officials traced the fire's origin to a homeless encampment near expensive hillside homes on North Loop Drive, said Capt. Ron Oatman. Investigators had not determined whether the blaze was intentionally set.

About 300 firefighters, aided by water-dropping helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, were battling the blaze at its peak. The fire broke out shortly after 3 p.m.

"Aggressive, old-fashioned firefighting," along with weed abatement conducted by area residents, helped crews beat back flames that had threatened about 55 homes homes in Camarillo's Highlands neighborhood and the Grove Place neighborhood in the community of Somis, according to Oatman.

Both areas were under a voluntary evacuation order that was expected to be lifted shortly after 7 p.m., officials said.

Full containment was expected about noon Wednesday.

-Steve Chawkins at the fire command post and North Loop Drive.

Photo: Residents on Oceanview Drive in Camarillo watch as Ventura County helicopters drop water on smoldering brush. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times,

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