Southern California

Red Flag Warning in Effect As Firefighters Battle Saddleridge Fire

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning, in effect until Sunday at 10 p.m.

Firefighters working under a red flag warning Sunday continued the process of containing the Saddleridge Fire in the northern San Fernando Valley and looking for hot spots to put out as low humidity and gusty winds returned.

The blaze has burned nearly 8,800 acres, destroyed 19 structures, damaged 88 more since it erupted the night of Oct. 10 off the westbound Foothill (210) Freeway near Yarnell Street and Saddleridge Road in Sylmar. It was 80% contained as of early Sunday, the fire department said.

The National Weather Service issued the warning -- which is effective until 10 p.m. Sunday for areas including the Santa Clarita Valley, the Santa Monica mountains and San Fernando Valley.

"Wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph will be common,'' the weather service statement noted, with the strongest winds along the Interstate 5 corridor.

"Minimum humidities will generally range between 8 and 20 percent through Sunday. Recoveries at night will be moderate across the north facing mountains with poor recoveries in the foothills and downslope mountain and valley areas,'' the weather service said.

"Areas under a Red Flag Warning will have an increased threat of large fires, along with very rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior with any new fire ignitions," the weather service said. The so-called "weak" Santa Ana wind event is expected to continue into mid-week.

Near the fire zone, sustained north winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph were expected.

"Weather conditions over the next 48 hours will test current containment and open lines," the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement Friday night.

Authorities warned that gusting winds could potentially kick up smoldering embers and ignite new blazes in and around the fire zone, and urged residents to call 911 immediately if they spot any fresh flames.

Given the forecasted winds, Southern California Edison again warned of possible "Public Safety Power Shutoffs," meaning transmission lines in danger of being damaged by high winds could be de-energized to prevent possible wildfires, but resulting in customers losing power.

In Los Angeles County, 12,214 customers in the areas of Santa Clarita, San Fernando, Canyon Country, Acton, Castaic and Chatsworth were under consideration for shutoffs, according to SCE.

After it began last week, the Saddleridge Fire quickly spread due to wind-blown embers that jumped the Golden State (5) Freeway spreading flames into Granada Hills and Porter Ranch. At the height of the fire, an estimated 100,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders, all since lifted.

The cause remains undetermined, but the point of origin was identified by Los Angeles Fire Department arson investigators as a 50-foot-by-70-foot area beneath a Southern California Edison high-voltage transmission tower near Saddleridge Road, officials said.

A Porter Ranch resident, identified by neighbors as 54-year-old Aiman Elsabbagh, died of a heart attack Oct. 11 while trying to protect his home from the fire. LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said the man was speaking to firefighters when he went into cardiac arrest, and later died at a hospital.

Los Angeles Park Ranger Capt. Alberto Torres, 67, also suffered a heart attack Oct. 11 at Ranger Headquarters at the Griffith Park Visitor Center, at 4730 Crystal Springs Drive and died the next morning at a hospital. Torres -- a ranger for more than 40 years -- had been patrolling the parks impacted by the fire.

Eight firefighters suffered minor injuries, including one with an eye injury, fire officials said.

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