Santa Clarita fire: Body found, 18 homes burn in Sand Canyon area

Posted at 2:23 PM, Jul 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-24 17:23:12-04

As firefighters battle a fast-moving brush fire in Santa Clarita that has consumed 22,000 acres and destroyed 18 homes, officials Sunday urged residents affected by the blaze to heed mandatory evacuation orders for their own safety.

"These are not normal times. When we ask you to evacuate, evacuate," said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby."You need to be ready, in case we ask you to evacuate."

"This is a very serious fire and when we tell people to evacuate, they need to evacuate," said County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

"We have one fatality and 18 homes already destroyed -- one partially. So, again, all the orders that have remained relative to road closure and evacuations, please listen to the fire department, listen to the Sheriff's Department,"  Antonovich said. "We want to save lives, we want to protect property. We want to save the animals. We don't want to lose any more lives than we did yesterday."

A body was found at 7:20 p.m. Saturday in the 26700 block of Iron Canyon Road. Homicide investigators saw the car in which the body was found parked in the driveway of a house, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez.

There appears to be no crime involved, Navarro-Suarez said. The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy. The victim's age and identity were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The body is believed to be male, according to Investigator Selena Barros of the coroner's office.

The Sand Fire was still only 10 percent contained this afternoon, as 1,673 firefighters battled the heat and the flames. Resources devoted to the firefighting effort include 70 engines, 36 hand crews, nine helicopters and four bulldozers, according to authorities.

More than 1,500 homes are still threatened by the massive blaze, according to a United States Forest Service spokesman and the sheriff's department.

Officials urged residents of Acton to be ready for possible evacuations as the fire was expected to spread in their direction.

Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp of the LACFD warned that if any residents feel a wind coming from the southwest, that gust will "push against the right side, the right flank, east side of this fire. And that means the people in Acton have to get the 'Ready, Set, Go (evacuation) program right now. If you have a horse that has to get out of there, be pro-active ... before smoke, fire engine and police cars are coming into your neighborhood."

Some residents in the Sand Canyon area of Santa Clarita who evacuated Saturday were supposed to be allowed to return to their homes at 1 p.m. Sunday, but shifting winds changed those plans and evacuation orders remain in place.

There were several road closures declared.

The Sand Canyon exit on the northbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway will remain closed. There is no entry into Sand Canyon from Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon roads; no access to Sand Canyon, Soledad Canyon Road and Placerita Canyon, Agua Dulce Canyon Road  or Crown Valley Road from the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway; Sand Canyon Road was shut down east of Placerita Canyon to 12300 Little Tujunga Canyon Road.

Capt. Roosevelt Johnson of the sheriff's Santa Clarita station said Sunday that at least 140 deputies in Santa Clarita Valley are working on protecting the evacuation areas. "When we evacuate those areas, it's really important that people don't try and re-enter those areas," Johnson said. "Our goal is to make sure that human life is protected at all costs."

An evacuation center is set up at Hart High School at 24825 Newhall Ave. in Santa Clarita.

Community members showed up Saturday at the Wildlife WayStation in Sylmar to help evacuate some 400 exotic animals, according to Lt. Javier Gutierrez of  Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control. The 160-acre sanctuary is located at 14831 Little Tujunga Canyon Road. The animals were taken to warehouses to wait out the fire, including the hangar at Van Nuys Airport.

The fire destroyed a western town set on the Sable Ranch, a well-known and well-used filming location, according to authorities.

The blaze was fueled by triple-digit temperatures Friday and Saturday along with gusty winds and extremely dry vegetation, but the U.S. Forest Service said humidity rose to 31 percent overnight, which was expected to help.

Residents have reported smoke-filled air and falling ash in many parts of the greater Los Angeles area.

A smoke advisory was issued through midnight Saturday night for the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys, the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pomona/Walnut Valley, and the central Los Angeles area.

With smoke expected to move north and northeast Sunday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District issued another smoke advisory for the Antelope Valley until midnight Monday.

The SCAQMD said affected 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.     

The fire broke out at 2:11 p.m. Friday, near Sand Canyon Road, along the northbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway. The cause is still under investigation.