Los Angeles County’s 22,000 Acre Fire Leaves 1 Dead, Forces Hundreds To Evacuate

More than 22,000 acres in northern Los Angeles are burning after Friday’s brush fire erupted again on Sunday.

The flaming mass, which started on Friday afternoon, grew to 5,500 acres on Saturday. By Sunday, it spread over 35 square miles in the Santa Clarita Valley near 14 Freeway — based on reports from BuzzFeed News.

To date, at least 18 homes have been destroyed, and more than 1,500 others are threatened by the fire. Los Angeles County officials hinted earlier in the day that some residents could return home by Sunday at 1 p.m. following Saturday’s evacuation, but shifts in wind caused the team to strike that decision. Now, evacuation orders have expanded.

The InciWeb states the following evacuations are in place:

All residents in Sand Canyon from Lost Canyon to Bear Divide (extended from Robinson Ranch Golf Course). All residents in Placerita Canyon from the Nature Center to Sand Canyon. Little Tujunga from Bear Divide to LA River Ranger District (Station), 12371 Little Tujunga Cyn Rd.

In addition to evacuations, the site confirms nearly 1,700 are fighting the fire, but some drone activity may be interfering with the crew’s work.

Over 1,673 firefighters are engaged in initial attack. Resources include 122 engines, 39 hand crews, 15 helicopters and 8 dozers. The Incident Command Post is located at Golden Valley High School. Recent drone activity has occurred over the fire in the Bear Divide Area. When drones interfere with firefighting efforts, a wildfire has the potential to grow larger and cause more damage. On the San Gabriel Complex­­, an FAA Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in effect and any private aircraft or drone that violates the TFR could face serious criminal charges.

Although firefighters are working diligently to get a handle on the fire, they are encountering difficulties due to a relentless heat wave, high winds, and tinderlike chaparral, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We have a lot of dry vegetation in addition to a Red Flag (Warning) right now,” the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Chief, Daryl Osby, stated during a press conference on Saturday. “Some fuels haven’t burned in decades… in different conditions, firefighters might have been able to stop the fire at the ridge before it grew too large. However, high temperatures and five years of ongoing drought helped the flames speed through and grow beyond firefighters’ reach.”

According to spokespersons for the Fire Department, firefighters are continuing to remain cautious of wind conditions – which can shift quickly and endanger more homes in the area. The team has already assigned 40 engines to create a barrier of protection in case flames approach the structures.

Residents have been urged to remain observant and pay attention to both the weather and media alerts in case they need to evacuate.

BuzzFeed News reports the sheriff of Los Angeles County is already investigating the death of one man they believe was evacuating the area. His body was found in a car in the North Iron Canyon Road vicinity. No evidence of criminal foul play was discovered, leaving law enforcement to believe his demise is fire related. However, Deputy Mike Barraza confirmed that the team is still awaiting an official determination from the County’s coroner.

In addition, BuzzFeed warns Southern Californians are under a smoke advisory that extends as far as 60 miles away. Fire officials say the enormous cloud of smoke produced by the fire can be seen for miles.

As of Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles County fire is only 10 percent contained and the cause is still unknown. Firefighters are continuing their fight overnight and will use night-flying aircraft to help further containment. For more updates and a list of evacuation areas, check out the federal government’s InciWeb site.

[Photo via AP Images/Ryan Babroff]