1 home burned as wildfire grows to 5000 acres and firefighters brace for more extreme heat and winds – Los Angeles Times
A brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains north of downtown Los Angeles has burned more than 5,000 acres, making it one of the largest fires in the city’s history and one that officials warn could grow larger if erratic weather conditions continue.
Hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze overnight and into the morning, and at one point, the flames were spreading in four directions amid intense heat and wild winds. One home has burned, but no injuries have been reported, officials said Saturday.
Those firefighters will face another day of triple-digit heat in inland areas of Southern California as a heat wave that has gripped the state continues. The National Weather Service said temperatures could reach 110-115 degrees in the hottest areas, and hillside areas could experience more of the shifting winds that helped fuel what has been dubbed the La Tuna fire.
More than 700 homes in the area have been evacuated, including 300 in Burbank, 250 in Glendale and 180 in Los Angeles, officials said.
“Our priority is saving people and saving property,” Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas told reporters at a 10 a.m. news conference in Lake View Terrace, where he was joined by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“There is a lot of unburned fuel” in this area, Terrazas warned, noting that the last fire in the area was at least 30 years ago.
Both Terrazas and Garcetti said the La Tuna fire was the largest in the city’s history in terms of acreage.
“We can’t recall anything larger,” Terrazas said.
“Our biggest concern is the wind and weather,” Terrazas said. “The erratic weather is our No. 1 challenge. If there’s no wind, this is a relatively easy fire to put out. But when the wind changes, it changes our priorities because other properties become at risk.”
The fire was 10% contained Saturday morning, officials said. Winds were blowing between 10 and 15 mph, with humidity at 10% to 15%.
The combination of dry brush, high heat, low humidity and shifting winds make it possible for the fire to spread, officials said.
“We are worried about the fire hooking southeast into Glendale and working its way up into Whiting Woods area,” Garcetti said.
Late Saturday morning, the city of Glendale announced voluntary emergency evacuations in the Glenwood Oaks and Mountain Oaks neighborhoods. Residents in the city’s Whiting Woods neighborhood also were told to be prepared to leave.
Despite the size of the fire, it has destroyed only one home, in the southern region of the Sunland-Tujunga area, officials said.
Chris Hall, 37, was spraying his roof with a water hose Saturday morning when two police officers pulled up to his driveway on McGroarty Street in Tujunga.
“Now it’s mandatory,” they told him. “Get your stuff and go.”
Hall said he wanted to stay but didn’t argue.
They gave him 20 minutes to pack, but Hall said he was already prepared. The night before, he organized his photos — those of his daughter’s birth, birthdays and visits to the zoo — and important documents, filling them in the trunk of his Nissan Sentra.
“Everything else can be replaced,” he said, sitting behind the wheel of his car about to flee.
Earlier that morning, after seeing flames creep up behind a nearby art center, he dropped his 5-year-old daughter and 12-year-old stepson, along with their pet hamster, at a friend’s home. He left their goldfish behind.
Over the last couple weeks, as wildfires raged across California, he spent hours tree trimming and weed-wacking in case a fire erupted nearby.
“We did a lot of cleaning,” he said.
When winds pushed a band of flames over the canyon ridgeline Friday night, authorities ordered those living in the Brace Canyon Park area and Castleman Estates to “leave immediately” and head to evacuation shelters, according to an alert issued by the fire department. The Stough Canyon Nature Center also is under evacuation order.
The overall evacuation order affects hundreds of homes. Burbank police were going door to door early Saturday urging residents to evacuate on Haven Way, Joaquin Drive, Olney Place, Remy Place, Mystic View Place and View Crest Drive. Groton Drive and Hamline Place, east of Stephen Road, also were evacuated.
The fire was burning on multiple fronts southwest of the 210 Freeway, which remained closed Saturday morning between the Glendale Freeway and Sunland Boulevard. It was not known when the freeway would be reopened.
Evacuation centers have been set up at McCambridge Park Recreation Center, 1515 N. Glenoaks Blvd., in Burbank; the Sunland Recreation Center in the 8600 block of Foothill Boulevard in Sunland; and at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, 1401 N. Verdugo Road.
As Wendy Schmidt walked her dog, Daisy, near the Sunland Recreation Center late Saturday morning, flakes of ash floated all around as water-dropping helicopters roared overhead.
She said she could see the blaze from the front window of her home in Haines Canyon above La Tuna Canyon Park, where she lives with her husband, eight chickens, three cats and a dog. But she said they had not been ordered to evacuate.
“It’s getting closer to us,” she said. “You can be safe one minute, then in danger the next.”
She said she planned to spend the rest of her day indoors to avoid the smoky air.
Volunteers at the evacuation center said about a dozen people spent the night in the shelter. They said residents were allowed to return home Saturday morning.
By 10:30 a.m., the center was empty, but it will be open until at least Sunday morning, offering snacks and cots to those forced to flee.
Andrea Heintz, 78, was getting ready for bed Friday when she saw on the news that there was a mandatory evacuation around Brace Canyon near Burbank. She and her husband have lived there since 1970 and have seen several wildfires over the years.
They had always stayed home, but this time, the news worried her. Her husband called her foolish.
Heintz said she took all of their valuables and left. Her husband stayed behind.
Heintz arrived at the hastily assembled Red Cross shelter at McCambridge Recreation Center in Burbank around 11 p.m. The fire had quickly shifted course late Friday, so cots weren’t set up until 1:30 a.m.
She and the other evacuees passed the time watching TV and chatting. Every five minutes, they would walk outside to watch the blaze burning bright orange against the dark sky.