SANTA CLARITA – As firefighters battled a fast-moving and deadly brush fire in Santa Clarita that had consumed 30,000 acres, destroyed 18 homes and possibly claimed one life, officials on Sunday urged residents affected by the blaze to heed mandatory evacuation orders for their own safety.
The newest evacuations were ordered in Acton as the fire spread northeast. Residents were ordered to leave their homes on Agua Dulce Canyon Road north to the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, Crown Valley north to the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway and all of Soledad Canyon between those two areas.
By Sunday evening, residences from Golden Valley Road to Sand Canyon, excluding the Sand Canyon Mobile Home Park, were evacuated.
Also by that time, the flames grew from burning 22,000 acres to 30,000 acres, Los Angeles County Fire Supervisor Michael Pittman said. Containment was still just 10% as of 8 p.m. Sunday, July 24, he said.
Evacuation centers were in place at Highland High School at 39055 25th Street West in Palmdale; at Hart High School at 24825 Newhall Ave. in Santa Clarita; and at Lakeview Terrace Recreation Center at 11075 Foothill Drive in Sylmar.
All lanes on the northbound Antelope (14) Freeway from the Golden State (5) Freeway to Santiago Canyon and the southbound 14 Freeway from Avenue N to Soledad Canyon were closed by the California Highway Patrol as of Sunday and re-opened by 7:30 p.m.
Metrolink announced there would be no service to and from the Vincent Grade/Acton, Palmdale or Lancaster stations.
More than 1,600 firefighters battled the heat and the flames. Resources devoted to the firefighting effort included 70 engines, 36 hand crews, nine helicopters and four bulldozers, according to authorities.
More than 1,500 homes were threatened by the massive blaze, according to a United States Forest Service spokesman and the sheriff’s department.
Some residents in the Sand Canyon area of Santa Clarita who evacuated Saturday were supposed to be allowed to return to their homes Sunday, but shifting winds changed those plans and evacuation orders remained in place.
Around 5 p.m. on Sunday, the fire jumped Placerita Canyon about a quarter mile west of Sand Canyon and was moving north, county firefighters said. They urged residents in the area to evacuate.
There were several road closures declared.
The Sand Canyon exit on the northbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway will remain closed. There is no entry into Sand Canyon from Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon roads; no access to Sand Canyon, Soledad Canyon Road and Placerita Canyon, Agua Dulce Canyon Road or Crown Valley Road from the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway; Sand Canyon Road was shut down east of Placerita Canyon to 12300 Little Tujunga Canyon Road.
Capt. Roosevelt Johnson of the sheriff’s Santa Clarita station said Sunday that at least 140 deputies in Santa Clarita Valley were working on protecting the evacuation areas.
“When we evacuate those areas, it’s really important that people don’t try and re-enter those areas,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to make sure that human life is protected at all costs.”
“These are not normal times. When we ask you to evacuate, evacuate,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. “You need to be ready, in case we ask you to evacuate.”
“This is a very serious fire and when we tell people to evacuate, they need to evacuate,” said County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
“We have one fatality and 18 homes already destroyed — one partially. So, again, all the orders that have remained relative to road closure and evacuations, please listen to the fire department, listen to the Sheriff’s Department,” Antonovich said. “We want to save lives, we want to protect property. We want to save the animals. We don’t want to lose any more lives.”
A body was found at 7:20 p.m. Saturday, July 23, in the 26700 block of Iron Canyon Road. Homicide investigators saw the car in which the body was found parked in the driveway of a house, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez.
There appears to be no crime involved, Navarro-Suarez said. The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy. The victim’s age and identity were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The body is believed to be male, according to Investigator Selena Barros of the coroner’s office.
Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp of the LACFD warned that if any residents feel a wind coming from the southwest, that gust will “push against the right side, the right flank, east side of this fire. And that means the people in Acton have to get the ‘Ready, Set, Go’ (evacuation) program right now. If you have a horse that has to get out of there, be pro-active … before smoke, fire engine and police cars are coming into your neighborhood.”
Many Santa Clarita residents in the evacuation area have large animals who also need to be evacuated. Pierce College in Woodland Hills and the Hansen Dam recreation area reached capacity Sunday afternoon and are no longer accepting animals, but the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds announced this Sunday afternoon that they are accepting animals. The AV Fairgrounds is located at 2551 W. Avenue H in Lancaster.
Community members showed up Saturday at the Wildlife WayStation in Sylmar to help evacuate some 400 exotic animals, according to Lt. Javier Gutierrez of Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control. The 160-acre sanctuary is located at 14831 Little Tujunga Canyon Road. The animals were taken to warehouses to wait out the fire, including the hangar at Van Nuys Airport. By early Sunday, however, it looked like the facility would be spared any fire damage.
The fire destroyed a western town set on the Sable Ranch, a well-known and well-used filming location, according to authorities.
The blaze was fueled by triple-digit temperatures Friday and Saturday along with gusty winds and extremely dry vegetation, but the U.S. Forest Service said humidity rose to 31 percent overnight, which was expected to help.
Residents have reported smoke-filled air and falling ash in many parts of the greater Los Angeles area.
A smoke advisory was issued through midnight tonight for the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys, the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pomona/Walnut Valley, and the central Los Angeles area.
With smoke expected to move north and northeast today, the South Coast Air Quality Management District issued another smoke advisory for the Antelope Valley until midnight Monday.
The SCAQMD said affected areas are susceptible to direct smoke impact and unhealthy air quality, and recommended that people stay indoors and avoid using swamp coolers and wood-burning appliances.
The fire broke out at 2:11 p.m. Friday, July 22, near Sand Canyon Road, along the northbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway. The cause is still under investigation.
For the Twitter updates on the Sand Fire, follow the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Public Information Office @LACoFDPIO.
UPDATED JULY 25: As of Monday morning, containment of the fire was still listed at 10 percent, and the acreage was listed at 33,117 — more than 51 square miles, said county fire Chief Daryl Osby. The cause was still under investigation.
The Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District issued a Smoke Advisory on June 23 for Antelope Valley. [View it here.] This advisory remains in effect until further notice. For updates on air quality, visit www.avaqmd.ca.gov.
Previous related story: Brush fire breaks out near 14 Fwy in Santa Clarita