SANTA CLARITA – Authorities on Tuesday identified a man whose burned body was found in a car in the driveway of a house in the area affected by the Sand Fire, and said he died after apparently refusing orders to evacuate the area.
The body of Robert Bresnick, 67, was discovered at 7:20 p.m. Saturday, July 23, in the 26700 block of Iron Canyon Road, said coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter.
“Evidently, he did not want to evacuate,” Winter said. An autopsy was pending to determine the cause of the man’s death, which was being classified as an accident.
Winter said Bresnick, whose hometown was not known, apparently was visiting a friend at the location, and had been advised by authorities to leave. The friend left, but Bresnick did not, Winter said.
Neighbors told the Los Angeles Times that Bresnick was trying to rescue his dogs and got caught in the fire.
Meanwhile, firefighters on Tuesday continued their efforts to contain the fire, which has scorched 37,473 acres of drought-ravaged terrain and destroyed at least 18 homes, although conditions improved enough on Monday to lift evacuation orders for thousands of residents.
Aggressive efforts by more than 3,000 firefighters have managed to slow the spread of the blaze that raged through the dry terrain from Friday to Monday, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Michael Pittman. Fire officials called Monday “a better day,” he said.
As of Tuesday morning, the fire was listed as 25 percent contained, the Fire Department reported.
About 10,000 homes — occupied by an estimated 20,000 residents — had been evacuated since the fire broke out on Friday afternoon near Sand Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, along the northbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, sheriff’s Capt. Roosevelt Johnson said.
Almost all evacuation orders were lifted as of 7 p.m. Monday, July 25, but remained in effect for residents of Placerita Canyon Road from Running Horse Lane to Pacy Street, and along Little Tujunga Road from the Wildlife Waystation to Sand Canyon Road and Placerita Canyon Road.
U.S. Forest Service officials said evacuation orders will also remain in place on Agua Dulce Canyon Road from Soledad Canyon Road to about a quarter- mile south of the Antelope Valley Freeway, and along Soledad Canyon Road for one mile on either side of Agua Dulce Canyon Road.
It was not immediately clear how many homes will remain evacuated.
Only residents will be allowed back into the areas where evacuations are being lifted, so people will be asked to show identification.
LACFD Chief Daryl Osby had lamented the unwillingness of some residents to follow evacuation orders, saying some fire crews encountered residents while heading into the fire zone.
“They were surprised to see citizens there,” Osby said. “The citizens were there trying to evacuate, trying to get animals out.
“At the same time they (firefighters) are trying to go in and protect homes, they felt that they lost additional structures because they had to stop what they were doing to help citizens evacuate.”
According to the California Highway Patrol, some law enforcement personnel standing guard at closed streets were nearly run over by people driving carelessly as they tried to get back to their homes.
Fire and law enforcement officials repeatedly urged residents to evacuate when ordered, or even earlier.
“If you see smoke and fire coming in your direction, don’t wait for a police officer or a deputy or a firefighter to say go,” LACFD Deputy Chief John Tripp said.
Officials also warned people not to fly drones in the fire zone, noting that a couple of incursions of drones into the fire zone occurred on Sunday — forcing a halt to aerial firefighting efforts until the air space was cleared.
County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said the LACFD will receive the S-64F Helitanker HT-731 aircraft two weeks early. The Helitanker will arrive August 1 from Erickson Aviation Incorporated. The SuperScooper aircraft that the county leases from Canada will be leased later in the season.
He said the Board of Supervisors would ratify a local state of emergency declaration at its meeting Tuesday.
Antonovich said he will also introduce a motion calling for a report from the county fire department on its aerial resources — and whether the county needs to either purchase its own SuperScooper aircraft or arrange to lease one year-round.
Officials said two firefighters assigned to battle the flames lost their homes in the fire, along with a third who lost his home while battling a brush fire at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.
Evacuation centers were established 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. It was unclear if all of them would remain open given the lifting of most evacuation orders.
The fire destroyed a western town set on the Sable Ranch, a well-known and well-used filming location.
The blaze was fueled by triple-digit temperatures along with gusty winds and extremely dry vegetation — thanks to the region’s five-year drought — that hasn’t burned in years. Fire officials said that even vegetation in the area that isn’t dead is extremely dry, helping to fuel the “freight-train” speed of the flames.
The Escondido Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road exits of the northbound Antelope Valley Freeway are closed, as are the Crown Valley Road exits of the northbound and southbound 14 Freeway.
There was 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 Freeway; and Sand Canyon Road was shut down east of Placerita Canyon to 12300 Little Tujunga Canyon Road.
Metrolink announced there would be no service at least one more day to and from the Vincent Grade/Acton, Palmdale or Lancaster stations. Train service will operate between Via Princessa and Los Angeles only, Metrolink officials said. There will be no bus bridges between the Palmdale and Lancaster stations.
Residents saw smoke-filled air and falling ash over the weekend. Smoke was expected to drift north or northeast today, with the greatest impact seen in Acton and the Antelope Valley, although a shift in winds could change that.
The Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory for Antelope Valley, which remains in effect until further notice. [View it here.] Officials urge people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions to minimize outdoor activities.
For the Twitter updates on the Sand Fire, follow the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Public Information Office @LACoFDPIO. For up-to-date information,visit http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4878/ or call 626-574-5208.
A resident’s view of the Sand Fire July 25 from the Metrolink train
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