An out-of-control wildfire raging near Los Angeles prompted the evacuation of at least 10,000 homes as it blazed through the Angeles National Forest, scorching over 38,000 acres.
Almost 3,000 firefighters have been battling the so-called Sand Fire in the drought-parched Santa Clarita canyons, about 35 miles north of Los Angeles. At least 18 homes have been destroyed and one person found dead.
“This is the fifth year of an ongoing drought, so we have very extreme fire behavior,” said Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby. “These are not normal times.” (See related article, “California Drought Breeding More Wildfires.”) The fire began by the 14 Freeway, Osby said, and a cause is still under investigation.
“These are not normal times.” – LA Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby
The body of a 67-year-old resident was discovered in a burned-out car outside a home. According to Ed Winter, assistant chief at the L.A. County Coroner’s Office, the deceased man “ignored the fire department’s orders to evacuate, and went back in the house, then came out and got in his car, and apparently the fire overtook the vehicle.”
Acting Gov. Tom Torlakson, who was filling in for Gov. Jerry Brown, declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County, a move that helps get aid swiftly to affected communities.
According to County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the order will provide much-needed assistance to residents whose homes and property have been damaged in the raging wildfire. “It will provide the reimbursements for firefighting personnel because we have personnel from all over California in the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley fighting this fire,” he said.
Ash fell on cars in Pasadena and on beaches in Malibu. Smoke and flames could be seen for miles around, prompting health warnings due to the unhealthy air conditions in large parts of the Los Angeles area. The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended a smoke advisory for the Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita Valley and parts of the San Gabriel Mountains. The haze has triggered air-quality advisories as far away as Reno.
Extreme heat, strong winds and parched rugged terrain will continue to hamper firefighters, officials said. (See related article, “Record Heat Fuels Southwest Wildfires.”)
Meanwhile, a 32,000-acre wildfire burning in a coastal area of Monterey county, 300 miles northwest of Santa Clarita and north of Big Sur, has resulted in the death of a firefighter. The “call when needed” bulldozer operator was killed in nighttime operations, according to CalFire officials.
The so-called Soberanes Fire fire has destroyed 60 homes, requiring the services of more than 5,000 firefighters, and prompting the closure of all trails and roads in the Los Padres National Forest in the Monterey District.
CalFire officials have stated that they expect this wildfire to burn through the end of August.