Brush Fire Races Through Canyon Country Amid Red Flag Conditions

Brush Fire Races Through Canyon Country Amid Red Flag Conditions

News Staff

A 4,300-acre wildfire burning in Canyon Country prompted the evacuations of more than 40,000 residents, closed a section of the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway and caused Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday to declare a state of emergency in the county.

The emergency declaration by Newsom frees up state resources to assist in the firefighting effort. As of mid-morning Friday, more than 600 firefighters were battling the flames, which were listed at about 5% contained since the fire began early Thursday afternoon.

Six structures have been confirmed destroyed, with more than 15,000 structures threatened.

Two evacuation centers have been made available for displaced residents: College of the Canyons, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road; and West Ranch High School, 26255 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita.

Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect within the following general boundaries:

— In Canyon Country: Vasquez Canyon Road and Bouquet Canyon Road on the north; Soledad Canyon Road on the south; Whites Canyon and Plum Canyon roads on the west; and Sierra Highway up to Davenport Road on the east.

— In the Sand Canyon area: areas on the east and west sides of Sand Canyon Road, down to Placerita Canyon Road; and areas near the intersection of Placerita Canyon and Sand Canyon roads.

The Fair Oaks area south of the 14 Freeway in Canyon Country remained under a voluntary evacuation order as of mid-morning Friday, the sheriff’s department reported.

Also, the CHP reported the following road closures:

— SR-14: all lanes between Golden Valley and Escondido Canyon;

— southbound Sierra Highway at Sand Canyon;

— westbound Vasquez Canyon at Sierra Highway;

— southbound Sierra Highway at Davenport;

— eastbound Vasquez at Bouquet Canyon; and

— eastbound Placerita Canyon east of SR-14

And as of about 11:30 a.m. Friday, electricity service had been interrupted for nearly 10,400 Southern California Edison customers in parts of Los Angeles County under the utility’s “Public Safety Power Shutoff” program. Areas of Los Angeles County affected by the PSPS program include the Leona Valley, Agua Dulce, White Heather, Boiling Point, Mint Canyon, Chatsworth, Oaks, Lincoln Crest, Acton and Val Verde communities.

The PSPS program targets areas where weather conditions “may create the potential for elevated fire risk,” SCE reported. More information is available at http://www.sce.com/safety/wildfire/psps.

The fire prompted the cancellation of classes at numerous schools and two colleges.

In the city of Los Angeles, red flag parking restrictions ordered by the Los Angeles Fire Department will be in effect Friday to keep designated streets clear in case fire trucks have to be deployed.

The fire in Canyon Country was reported about 1:40 p.m. Thursday near the 31600 block of Tick Canyon Road, earning it the moniker Tick Fire, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Initially reported at 200 acres, the blaze rapidly grew to more than 850 acres in less than an hour, fire officials said.

Multiple structures could be seen burning to the ground as the wind carried flames ahead of the main blaze.

The firefight continued through the night, with firefighters facing “significant” winds, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby.

As of late Friday morning, more than 600 firefighters from various organizations, including the L.A. County and Angeles National Forest fire departments, were battling the fire along with four County Fire Department helicopters.

“Do not be lulled that you may not see open flames,” Osby said on Thursday night. “Because there are plenty of hot spots out in the incident, we’ll have firefighters out all night trying to work on those hot spots and try to work on increasing our containment line.”

“As we do the evacuation orders, know that (deputies) are behind all those neighborhoods that are evacuated,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Thursday. “There are deputies standing vigil all night long, all day, until (the neighborhoods) are repopulated.”

Residents with proper identification who live in the area east of Haskett Road between Davenport Road and the Antelope Valley Freeway were allowed back into their homes about 10 p.m. Thursday, the LASD said.

College of the Canyons canceled all classes at its Valencia and Canyon Country campuses Thursday and announced the campuses would remain closed Friday. Classes were also canceled Friday for all schools in the Hart, Newhall and Saugus school districts.

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Thursday night campuses in the San Fernando Valley would be closed Friday due to air quality and safety concerns from the Tick Fire and other blazes burning in the area.

Community Elementary, Roscomare Road Elementary, Topanga Elementary Charter, Valley View Elementary, Wonderland Avenue Elementary and Elementary Day School will also be closed. All athletic activities at the affected schools will be canceled or postponed, according to the LAUSD.

A total of 15 schools run by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys canceled classes scheduled for Friday.

Those schools are:

— De La Salle, 16535 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills;

— Mary Immaculate, 10390 Remick Ave., Pacoima;

— Our Lady of Grace, 17720 Ventura Blvd., Encino;

— Our Lady of Lourdes Parish School, 18437 Superior St., Northridge;

— Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 23225 Lyons Ave., Santa Clarita;

— Our Lady of the Valley, 22041 Gault St., Canoga Park;

— Santa Rosa de Lima,1316 Griffith St., San Fernando;

— St. Bridget of Sweden, 7120 Whitaker Ave., Van Nuys;

— St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 4548 Haskell Ave., Encino;

— St. Didacus, 14325 Astoria St., Sylmar;

— St. Euphrasia, 17637 Mayerling St., Granada Hills;

— St. John Eudes, 9925 Mason Ave., Chatsworth;

— St. Ferdinand, 1012 Coronel St., San Fernando;

— St. Joseph the Worker, 19812 Cantlay St, Winnetka.

St. Mel Elementary at 20874 Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills was previously scheduled to be closed Friday.

Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills also cancelled all of Friday’s classes due to air quality, safety and transportation concerns caused by brush fires burning in the area.

School officials will monitor conditions and determine if evening events, including the homecoming football game, will take place. Updates for those events will be provided via phone, email and official social media accounts, the school said.

The Archdiocese added the list would be updated as schools report closures. Schools would inform parents directly if their child’s campus is closed.

Large and small animals were being handled at the Castaic Animal Care Center at 31044 N. Charlie Canyon Road, sheriff’s officials said.

A Los Angeles County fire Sikorsky water-dropping helicopter was struck by a bird and sustained a damaged windshield. The chopper was able to land safely and its windshield was being repaired, Osby said.

National Weather Service forecasters said winds were gusting at 45 to 55 mph in the area of the fire.

Smoke from the Tick Fire prompted the South Coast Air Quality Management District to issue an unhealthy air quality advisory for residents in portions of northwest coastal Los Angeles County, the east and west San Fernando Valley, the Santa Clarita Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. The advisory was ordered to be in effect through Friday.

“It is difficult to tell where smoke, ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of these particles in the air, so we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, health officer for Los Angeles County.

“If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health.”

Residents, particularly those with sensitivity to air quality, were asked to avoid outdoor activity and remain indoors as much as possible. It was also recommended that pets be brought inside, particularly at night.

Schools and recreational programs in smoke-impacted areas were advised to suspend games and practices until conditions improve, Davis said.

Meanwhile, another brush fire erupted several miles to the west along the Golden State (5) Freeway in the Lake Hughes area. That fire scored about five to seven acres and burned through the roof of at least one home.

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the area, wrote on her Twitter page late Thursday afternoon that six homes had been lost in the Castaic area as a result of the blazes, but more homes could be seen burning Thursday evening in aerial TV news footage.

While crews were battling those two blazes, a third fire broke out in the Del Valle area west of the Golden State Freeway. According to county fire officials, that blaze damaged a vehicle and a mobile home, along with about one acre of brush.

The series of fires erupted amid red flag conditions prompted by Santa Ana winds and single-digit humidity. The red flag warning is scheduled to remain in place until Friday night.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced Thursday night that the state has been awarded a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help cover costs of efforts to fight the Tick Fire. The grant allows agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75% reimbursement of eligible firefighting costs.