Los Angeles

Saddleridge Fire Containment At 75%, United Command Discontinued

Firefighters braced Saturday for a weekend of low humidity and gusty winds as they worked to increase containment of the Saddleridge Fire in the northern San Fernando Valley.

"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.

The department announced Saturday that the united command consisting of them, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service has been disbanded. The announcement was made around 10 a.m.

The fire 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 Saddle Ridge Road in Sylmar. The fire was 75% contained, the fire department said.

"Firefighters continue to negotiate rugged terrain to increase containment lines and address hot spots,'' the statement said.

According to the National Weather Service, windy conditions are expected to persist throughout the weekend, culminating in a "weak" Santa Ana wind event beginning Sunday and continuing into mid-week.

Near the fire zone, a wind advisory will be in effect from 6 p.m. Saturday until 11 a.m. Sunday in the San Fernando Valley, with sustained north winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph. A wind advisory will be in effect during the same hours in the Los Angeles metro area, and from 1 p.m. Saturday until 3 a.m. Sunday in the Antelope Valley.

Forecasters said the strongest winds are expected Saturday night, with "weak Santa Ana winds" anticipated from Sunday night through Tuesday.

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.

As of Saturday afternoon, 4,864 SCE customers in parts of Santa Clarita, Canyon Country, Chatsworth, Acton and Castaic were under consideration for power shutoffs.

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 of which have since been 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 Saddle Ridge Road, officials said.

On Monday, Southern California Gas Co. crews alerted firefighters about flames burning in a roughly 4-foot-by-4-foot patch of soil on the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility property in Porter Ranch. Fire officials said the small blaze did not pose any risks to the public or the storage facility.

That fire was extinguished on Tuesday afternoon, according to SoCalGas.

SoCalGas officials stressed there was no damage to any equipment at the storage facility and no sign of any leaks. The small fire did not "pose a risk to public safety and there are no impacts to SoCalGas operations at the facility," according to the Gas Co.

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.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday ordered all city flags to lowered to half-staff in honor of Torres.

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

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