Los Angeles

Firefighters Slow Sand Fire's Spread, Most Evacuations Lifted

Firefighters protected an estimated 2,000 homes from the fire that began Friday near the 14 Freeway

A state of emergency was declared by the governor's office Tuesday after a fire that burned 18 homes and forced evacuations at around 10,000 residences continued to flare up Tuesday in the Santa Clarita Valley north of Los Angeles.

But the fire, which had been increasing by about 10,000 acres per day since it broke out Friday, did not grow significantly overnight and was at about 58 square miles Tuesday morning. Aggressive efforts by about 3,000 firefighters helped slow the spread of the blaze that burned through the dry terrain, parched after five years of drought in Southern California.

Containment, at just 10 percent on Monday, increased to 25 percent Tuesday morning. Firefighters saved an estimated 2,000 homes over the first three days of the fire, according to Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp.

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. Laurent Lacore was among those who evacuated on Saturday, the last of his family of four to leave as the fire bore down on his house. 

"The flames were right behind our backyard," he said.

Lacore was also among many who were told they could return on Sunday only to learn on arriving at the scene that new winds and new flames meant more days in a hard-to-find hotel room. He returned Monday night delighted to find the house and everything around it had been saved, and could see a line of red fire retardant nearby where a helicopter had stopped the fire's approach.

"Everything is fine," he said. "Even all of the trees are there."

Almost all evacuation orders were lifted as of 7 p.m. Monday 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.

On Saturday, the burned body of a 67-year-old man was found in a car parked in the driveway of a house in the 26700 block of Iron Canyon Road. Sheriff's officials said the death was still under investigation.

The fire's spread, described by fire authorities as "almost unprecedented," was fueled by strong weekend winds, heat and dry conditions during what fire officials said could be one of the worst fire seasons on record. The fire doubled in size from Saturday night into Sunday.

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.

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.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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