2 dead, nearly 9,000 acres burned in two San Fernando Valley fires
Two massive fires were burning out of control in the San Fernando Valley, devouring nearly 9,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents, closing freeways and causing at least two deaths.
In Porter Ranch, a blaze consumed more than 3,700 acres, jumping the 118 Freeway in a rapid march to the southwest. The freeway was covered in smoke, and one motorist was killed in an accident authorities believe is linked to the fire. Fire officials warned residents in the western San Fernando Valley and eastern Ventura County areas that they could be ordered to evacuate at any moment.
County officials said that several homes and other structures have burned near Topanga Canyon Boulevard near the 118 Freeway as the fire swept through.
In Lake View Terrace, a 5,000-acre wildfire driven by intense Santa Ana winds destroyed about 30 mobile homes on Lopez Canyon Road in the foothills near Lake View Terrace today as more neighborhoods were being ordered evacuated and critical patients moved from a medical center.
Officials confirmed that at least one person, who appeared to be a homeless man with his dog, was killed by the fire. His dog also appeared to have been overcome by flames.
Because of the Marek fire near Lake View Terrace, neighborhoods in Sylmar to the north of El Cariso Golf Course were evacuated, as well as those to the west near Veterans Memorial Park. Patients on ventilators from Olive View Medical Center were being moved to County-USC Medical Center, officials said.
The Marek fire had been 20% contained Sunday night, but the number was downgraded to 5% this morning as 65 mph winds sent flames shooting 200 feet into the air.
"As predicted, the Santa Ana winds did indeed come up, and it blew the fire out of our containment lines," said L.A. County Fire Chief Michael Freeman.
Angeles National Forest spokesman Stanton Florea said the fire will likely burn for several days, but that firefighters were trying to get it tamped down ahead of the winds. If the fire spreads farther uphill, an area near some California condor nests could be threatened, and protecting those condors would be a priority, he said.
In Porter Ranch, fire officials ordered an evacuation of Brown Canyon Road and Oat Mountain Way near Chatsworth. Investigators were also looking into reports that several arson blazes had been started today along the Antelope Valley Freeway. At least one fire, which started at 10:21 a.m., had charred several acres before it was knocked down, according to a Los Angeles County fire spokesman.
Fire officials conducting a damage assessment of the Marek fire confirmed that at least 30 mobile homes were destroyed at the Sky Terrace Mobile Lodge. Authorities earlier had reported that 37 mobile homes and a garage were destroyed at Sky Terrace but later said they could not be sure that all the mobile homes and the garage were at that facility.
At least 220 fire engines were on the scene of the Marek fire, and seven strike teams from Northern California were helping local firefighters battle the blaze. Another six teams were on their way.
Fueled by 65 mph winds, the fire also forced the closure of the 210 Freeway and several area schools and prompted the evacuation of 3,800 residents. The boundaries of the evacuation area were Maclay Street to the west, Gavina Street to the north, Kagel Canyon to the east and the 210 freeway to the south.
County Fire Inspector Frank Garrido said the acreage burned had grown from 2,100 Sunday night to at least 3,700 after the Marek fire had jumped a fire line about 4:30 a.m. in an area of Lopez Canyon.
An evacuation order for the eastern San Fernando Valley remains in effect as the Marek fire burns in a southwesterly direction toward homes and major freeways northwest of Lake View Terrace, Garrido said. The evacuation area now stretches west from unincorporated Olive View to Lake View Terrace.
"It’s a blowtorch right now," Garrido said. "If you are ahead of the fire, get your valuables and get out of the way."
Los Angeles Unified School District officials closed nine schools because of the fire. Officials also closed Mission College in Sylmar and canceled all classes at Cal State Northridge, although the campus remained open.
The fire, named for Marek Canyon, broke out early Sunday in the Angeles National Forest near Little Tujunga Road — about 20 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. It prompted the evacuation of 1,200 residents from 450 homes. Its cause is unknown.
A red flag warning has been issued through Tuesday evening, meaning that winds could reach 25 mph or more and humidity could drop to 15% or lower.
The fear is that wind-whipped embers could spark new fires, Padilla said.
About 125 residents stayed overnight at the evacuation center at San Fernando High School, which remains open. Another evacuation center was opened this morning at Sylmar High School in Sylmar. An evacuation center for horses and other animals has been established at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center in Sylmar.
As usual, they suspect arson because all of the fires began near a remote canyon road. Most wildfires in the United States are started by lightening… So Cal gets no lightening. And all of the fires started at the same time. BTW, at noon the Marek fire was pronounced 40% contained and that’s now been set at only 5%. By tomorrow morning it’s only going to be worse.
Here are some photos:
The only good news? I got my music back…