Brush fire chars 25 homes, grows to 7,500 acres in LA

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Han­nah Fry

LOS AN­GE­LES — A wind­driven brush fire carved a dev­as­tat­ing path on the north­ern edge of Los An­ge­les on Fri­day, chew­ing through 7,500 acres, burn­ing at least 25 homes and forc­ing thou­sands to flee.

The Sad­dleridge fire broke out Thurs­day night amid strong Santa Ana winds and spread rapidly. At its peak, the blaze was mov­ing at a rate of roughly 800 acres per hour.

It was 13% con­tained Fri­day af­ter­noon, Los An­ge­les fire of­fi­cials said.

Manda­tory evac­u­a­tions were is­sued overnight to roughly 23,000 homes en­com­pass­ing a large swath of neigh­bor­hoods — an area cov­er­ing 100,000 res­i­dents. Of­fi­cials warned that other com­mu­ni­ties near the fire need to be ready to leave at a mo­ment’s no­tice if the winds shift.

“The fact that com­mu­nity mem­bers heeded evac­u­a­tion warn­ings early made a huge dif­fer­ence, al­low­ing fire­fight­ers to en­ter those com­mu­ni­ties and pro­tect prop­er­ties,” said Los An­ge­les County Fire Chief Deputy David R. Richard­son.

Con­versely, Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment Chief Michel Moore said he’s seen home­own­ers stay be­hind to bat­tle flames on their prop­erty with gar­den hoses. He urged res­i­dents to evac­u­ate when or­dered.

“Those in­di­vid­u­als placed not only them­selves in im­mi­nent peril, but they placed first re­spon­ders such as po­lice and fire of­fi­cials in that same per­ilous con­di­tion be­cause of our need and de­sire to go in and try to res­cue them,” Moore said.

One fire­fighter suf­fered a mi­nor in­jury to his eye while bat­tling the blaze, and a man in his late 50s died af­ter suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack while talk­ing with fire­fight­ers Fri­day, of­fi­cials said.

More than 1,000 fire­fight­ers from mul­ti­ple agen­cies con­tin­ued at­tack­ing the blaze from the air and ground and by Fri­day af­ter­noon con­di­tions ap­peared to be im­prov­ing, of­fi­cials said.

He­li­copters and am­phibi­ous fire­fight­ing air­craft known as Su­per Scoop­ers were de­ployed, while ground crews manned bull­doz­ers to cut con­tain­ment lines into nearby hill­sides in an ef­fort to slow the fire’s spread. At least one air tanker blan­keted fire re­tar­dant across the ridges be­tween Granada Hills and Porter Ranch neigh­bor­hoods.

How­ever, low hu­mid­ity and north­east­erly winds gust­ing up to 50 mph, which are ex­pected to linger un­til the evening, still pose a chal­lenge for fire­fight­ers. Of­fi­cials say they ex­pect it will take days to get the blaze com­pletely un­der con­trol.

The wind has con­tin­ued push­ing the fire west into res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods in Porter Ranch and far­ther west to lesspop­u­lated ar­eas ap­proach­ing Rocky Creek Park near the Ven­tura County line, said Capt. Bran­den Sil­ver­man, an LAFD spokesman. Porter Ranch is “ba­si­cally the hot spot right now,” he said.

Sil­ver­man said the blaze is sim­i­lar to the Sayre fire that burned near the Syl­mar neigh­bor­hood in 2008 and de­stroyed nearly 500 homes, in­clud­ing the Oakridge mo­bile home park, which had to be evac­u­ated Thurs­day. The Sayre blaze was among the most de­struc­tive wild­fires in the city’s his­tory.

Overnight, the Sad­dleridge fire moved so quickly it jumped into neigh­bor­hoods be­fore au­thor­i­ties could warn res­i­dents.

NOAH BERGER/AP

Flames from the Sad­dleridge fire run up a hill­side Fri­day in north­ern Los An­ge­les.

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