Brush fire chars 25 homes, grows to 7,500 acres in LA
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.
Flames from the Saddleridge fire run up a hillside Friday in northern Los Angeles.