HIGH FIRE DAN­GER

Wild­fires from Bur­bank to San Luis Obispo County and the In­land Em­pire prompt evac­u­a­tions. Some homes have been lost.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - JOSEPH SERNA

A he­li­copter drops wa­ter at the scene of a brush fire in Bur­bank, one of sev­eral wild­fires be­ing fought Wed­nes­day in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Fire­fight­ers on Wed­nes­day in­creased con­tain­ment around five South­ern Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires that have gut­ted homes and cars and forced some res­i­dents to flee, ac­cord­ing to state and fed­eral of­fi­cials.

The blazes started at the tail end of a bru­tal statewide heat wave that dried out val­ley grasses and brush-cov­ered hill­sides. Of­fi­cials say Cal­i­for­nia’s wettest win­ter in more than a decade cre­ated a fresh crop of fuel spread across the state that has since dried out in the spring and sum­mer heat.

Though tem­per­a­tures are ex­pected to dip Fri­day, warm, dry breezes are ex­pected to re­turn over the week­end, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice said.

In re­sponse, the An­ge­les Na­tional For­est ex­pects to raise the fire dan­ger level from high to very high ef­fec­tive Fri­day, park of­fi­cials an­nounced.

“Live-fuel mois­ture lev­els in the shrubs and brush have de­creased, grasses at lower el­e­va­tions have cured, and fire ac­tiv­ity has in­creased re­cently around the for­est,” of­fi­cials said.

In the mean­time, here’s where the five fires in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia stood on Wed­nes­day:

The largest of them all, the fire was sparked Mon­day by a car crash along High­way 79 in the San Jac­into Moun­tains and has been fu­eled by high tem­per­a­tures, low hu­mid­ity and wind gusts of up to 35 mph that have pushed it east to­ward Ban­ning.

River­side County au­thor­i­ties said evac­u­a­tion warn­ings re­main in place for com­mu­ni­ties be­tween High­land Home Road and High­way 243 — an area that in­cludes Pop­pet Flats and Silent Val­ley.

A day ear­lier, those in vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion ar­eas said things ap­peared much less dire than they did Mon­day evening, when ash rained down and smoke and flames rose on the hori­zon.

“Last night it was iffy,” Jeanie Crist, a 64-year-old res­i­dent of Silent Val­ley Club, told The Times on Tues­day.

The mood had re­turned to nor­mal the next day, how­ever, as campers went about their nor­mal sum­mer rou­tines and lounged among oak trees, even as fire of­fi­cials roamed the grounds and kept a watch­ful eye on mat­ters.

MART FIRE San Bernardino County 902 acres 15% con­tained

On Tues­day night, an­other blaze had popped up less than 30 miles to the north of the Man­zanita fire and east of San Bernardino.

The Mart fire raced up a steep canyon in the San Bernardino Moun­tains about 3:15 p.m., and its flames came within feet of ig­nit­ing a sub­ur­ban hill­side neigh­bor­hood, trig­ger­ing evac­u­a­tions. Fire­fight­ers man­aged to stop its ad­vance with air power and ground crews.

The fire started near a Wal­Mart at High­land Av­enue and High­way 330, a pop­u­lar thor­ough­fare that leads to Big Bear. The fire has spread to more than 900 acres in the hills north of High­land, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. For­est Ser­vice.

About 560 fire­fight­ers and emer­gency per­son­nel were as­signed to the blaze. The cause is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

HILL FIRE San Luis Obispo County 1,598 acres 65% con­tained

In San Luis Obispo County, the Hill fire started Mon­day and was burn­ing along east­ern foothills of a coastal moun­tain range near Santa Mar­garita among se­cluded homes and tall, dry grass and veg­e­ta­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to TMZ, “Big Bang The­ory” ac­tor Johnny Galecki’s ranch was de­stroyed in the blaze.

In a state­ment to the web­site, Galecki said: “My heart goes out to all in the area who are also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing loss from this vi­cious fire, the threat of which we live with con­stantly, which may seem crazy to some but we do so be­cause liv­ing in our beau­ti­ful, ru­ral area makes it worth­while. It’s never the struc­tures that cre­ate a com­mu­nity — it’s the peo­ple. And if the peo­ple of Santa Mar­garita have taught me any­thing it’s that, once the smoke has cleared, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, it’s a time to reach out and re­build.

“We’ve done it be­fore, and will need to do it to­gether again, and it will make our com­mu­nity even closer and stronger. End­less thanks to Cal Fire and the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice. I know you guys are fight­ing the good fight to keep us safe. So very re­lieved no one has been hurt.”

PLACERITA FIRE Los An­ge­les County 780 acres 95% con­tained

The Placerita fire started Sun­day af­ter­noon when a mo­torist crashed into a tree, ac­cord­ing to the Los An­ge­les County Fire Depart­ment.

The blaze was ex­pected to be fully con­tained by the end of Wed­nes­day, of­fi­cials said.

In its first hours over the week­end, the fire had knocked out power and trig­gered manda­tory evac­u­a­tions for dozens of res­i­dents af­ter it jumped a free­way and sent up a tow­er­ing plume of gray smoke vis­i­ble for miles.

Laura Amara, a 48-year-old sec­re­tary, was host­ing a baby shower at her house on Run­ning Horse Road when the fire be­gan.

“It started with my girl­friend hav­ing me come to the back­yard where she saw a lit­tle puff of flames come up, and I saw this big­ger ball of fire all of a sud­den kind of ex­plode,” she told a re­porter Mon­day.

Amara went back and told her 40 guests the news. “Um, we’re all leav­ing,” she said.

“I was wor­ried about my house, but I’ve been through this many times,” she said. “You live in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, you live in dry con­di­tions; just like earth­quakes, you get fire too. But when it burns, I want ev­ery­one out of the house and to be safe, so that’s my con­cern. Es­pe­cially with a very preg­nant daugh­ter, it was just like, ‘Go go go,’ and our blood pres­sures were sky­rock­et­ing.”

At Golden Oak Ranch, an 890-acre film­ing lo­ca­tion con­structed by Dis­ney and ABC Stu­dios, the fire burned a struc­ture that had been used as a prop house, said L.A. County Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment spokesman Christo­pher Craft.

U.S. For­est Ser­vice fire­fight­ers stopped the blaze from burn­ing other struc­tures in the faux busi­ness district and sub­ur­ban street used for film­ing movies and tele­vi­sion shows.

BUR­BANK FIRE Ver­dugo Moun­tains 10 acres 80% con­tained

The Bur­bank fire started Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon; a cause has not been de­ter­mined.

It was ex­pected to be fully con­tained by the end of Wed­nes­day, of­fi­cials said.

The fast-mov­ing fire prompted manda­tory evac­u­a­tions as it burned dan­ger­ously close to homes in the Ver­dugo Moun­tains, ac­cord­ing to the Bur­bank Fire Depart­ment. The fire was re­ported near the 1000 block of Ham­line Place just be­fore 3 p.m., ac­cord­ing to the Los An­ge­les Fire Depart­ment, which was as­sist­ing Bur­bank fire crews.

Bur­bank po­lice or­dered evac­u­a­tions of all homes on Viewcrest Drive and Howard Court. Irv­ing Drive was closed east of Ken­neth Road, and Joaquin Drive was closed at Haven Way.

Speak­ing to NBC4 News, Bur­bank Po­lice Sgt. Derek Green said of­fi­cers were go­ing door-to-door ask­ing peo­ple to evac­u­ate. Au­thor­i­ties ini­tially called for vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tions and quickly changed those to manda­tory or­ders. “It was a fast-mov­ing fire,” he said. “This is a very dry area.”

Au­thor­i­ties were con­cerned be­cause houses “butt right up to the hill­side,” he said.

FIRES STATEWIDE

Cal Fire and the U.S. For­est Ser­vice list seven other ac­tive fires burn­ing in the state from San Diego County to Fresno County, the two largest of which were nearly con­tained Wed­nes­day at about 1,500 acres apiece.

About 2,300 wild­fires on state and fed­eral land have burned 25,000 acres so far in 2017, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment statis­tics.

joseph.serna@la­times.com Times staff writers Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts, Javier Pan­zar, Son­aiya Kel­ley and Matt Hamil­ton con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Tim Berger Bur­bank Leader

Tim Berger Bur­bank Leader

A CREW cuts a fire line through the foothills above Ham­line Place in Bur­bank. The fast-mov­ing, 10-acre fire burned dan­ger­ously close to homes Wed­nes­day and prompted manda­tory evac­u­a­tions. But fire of­fi­cials ex­pected it would be fully con­tained by day’s end.

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