New evacuations ordered for Santa Clarita fire

Posted at 4:39 PM, Jul 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-23 19:19:57-04

More than 1,000 homes are being threatened by the fast-moving Sand Fire, with new evacuations ordered Saturday afternoon for residents of the Sand Canyon area of Santa Clarita.

The fire, which has burned at least 11,000 acres, was just 10 percent contained as of Saturday afternoon, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Joey Marron.

At about 3:30 p.m., evacuations were ordered from the Robinson Ranch Golf Course to the Bear Divide and Placerita Canyon to the Nature Center to Sand Canyon, according to the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station.

Earlier, between 200 and 300 home in the Little Tujunga area were under a mandatory evacuation order, according to the sheriff's department. And fewer than 100 people were evacuated from the area of Capra Road off Soledad Canyon Road.

At a noon news conference, LACFD Deputy Chief John Tripp said about 1,000 homes were threatened by the fire but warned residents of Sand Canyon and Lakeview Terrace to monitor media for possible evacuation orders as wind shifts bring new danger.

Fire units rushed to a home on Josel Drive Saturday afternoon as flames approached behind the house, officials said. The residents evacuated. Airdrops were ordered for about 100 homes threatened in the Sand Canyon area.

An emergency shelter for residents was established at Golden Valley High School at 27051 Robert C. Lee Parkway in Santa Clarita. Shelter for large animals was made available at Agua Dulce Airport, Wayside Jail in Castaic and Pierce College in Woodland Hills.

County animal control officials said they rounded up 228 horses, 52 goats, 29 chickens, seven rabbits, five cats and two dogs from the Castaic area, and were headed to a large wild animal sanctuary in Sylmar to assess the situation there.

"Our primary concern at the moment is getting the evacuation plan for the exotics at the Wildlife WayStation," said Aaron Reyes, the agency's deputy director, referring to the 160-acre sanctuary at 14831 Little Tujunga Canyon Rd. "Our understanding is they have primates, tigers and other large cats and a grizzly bear. We have animal control officers en route to the location to assess the situation and offer assistance."

County fire chief Daryl Osby said a combination of a lot of dry vegetation, a wind alignment and "some fuels that haven't burned in decades" saw a brush fire that broke out along the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway in Santa Clarita increase from 5,500 to 11,000 acres overnight.

"Probably five years ago, based on our fire behavior, if we had a similar fire, we would have probably caught this fire at the ridge,' Osby said during the noon news conference at Golden Valley High School. "Because this is the fifth year of an ongoing drought ... this fire has increased to 11,000 acres just overnight."

Residents reported smoke-filled air and falling ash in many parts of the greater Los Angeles area, and at least one building was damaged or destroyed by the fire.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the blaze, which began at 2:11 p.m. Friday, near Sand Canyon Road, along the northbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, Marron said.

Hundreds of firefighters were battling the flames from the ground and air. The Los Angeles Fire Department sent a water-dropping helicopter to join four from the county fire department. Eight fixed-wing firefighting aircraft were also called in to attack the blaze, Marron added. Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service were also assisting in the fight.

The blaze was fueled by triple-digit temperatures along with gusty winds and was burning eastward into the Angeles National Forest.

A smoke advisory was issued through midnight Sunday for the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys, the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pomona/Walnut Valley, and the central Los Angeles area, as smoke from the fire drifted southeast toward Los Angeles.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District said those areas are susceptible to direct smoke impact and unhealthy air quality, and recommended that people stay indoors and avoid using swamp coolers and wood-burning appliances.

Metrolink announced that the service's Antelope Valley trains will be experiencing delays of 35 to 50 minutes due to speed restrictions caused by the fire.

The city of Glendale reported that due to air quality and increased falling ash from the Sand Fire, Pacific Pool at 501 S. Pacific Ave. has been closed Saturday.

Pasadena announced that smoke and ash conditions from the fire forced the closure of its swimming pools Saturday as well.