Beverly White and Sue Monroe
A brush fire in Castaic prompted the CHP to shut down lanes of the Golden State Freeway, causing a traffic standstill. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Friday, June 8, 2012.
A brush fire north of Santa Clarita that grew to more than 650 acres forced the partial closure of the northbound Golden State (5) Freeway -- causing a traffic nightmare Friday.
The California Highway Patrol said it reopen two right-hand northbound lanes at 8:38 p.m. after closing the full northbound freeway seven hours earlier. Traffic was slow to return to a normal pace.
Firefighters initially responded to a 4-acre brush fire about 1 p.m. Friday afternoon north of Lake Hughes Road in the Castaic area.
By 3 p.m., the blaze had grown to more than 50 acres, with 250 firefighters and fire personnel responding, Los Angeles County fire Inspector Tony Imbrenda said. At 4:20 p.m., the blaze had tripled in size, and then was up to 650 acres by 7 p.m., fire officials said.
The fire was about 60 percent contained by 11 p.m., and firefighters expected full containment by noon Saturday.
Another fire was burning after 8 p.m. in the Inland Empire as well. the wildland fire east of Hemet had grown to 60 to 80 acres in the area of Indian Creek Road in unincorporated Valle Vista (map). Three helicopters, six air tankers and 227 firefighters were on scene and the blaze was holding steady with 20 percent containment as of 9:35 p.m., according to the Riverside County Fire Department's incident page on the blaze.
In the Santa Clarity Valley, the northbound 5 Freeway was a sea of taillights, depicted at right below, after it was closed between Parker Road and Templin Highway as a precaution, according to the California Highway Patrol. All on-ramps had been reopened by 9:35 p.m., CHP said.
Just as rush hour traffic on a Friday was about to begin, drivers were being diverted off the freeway at Parker Road. Traffic was backed for miles, according to Caltrans, at 4:42 p.m.
Fire officials defended the closure, saying it was needed for safety reasons. They said the fire came right up the freeway.
"You had a blanket of smoke covering this highway. You couldn't see 2 feet in front of you. It was dangerous enough to have our firefighters out here. We didn't want to make the public get into accidents, get into any kind of trouble," said Nathan Judy of the U.S. Forest Service.
No firefighters were injured and no structured were threatened.
Southbound lanes were not affected by the fire.