Emergency Declarations Made for SoCal Wildfires - NBC Bay Area

Emergency Declarations Made for SoCal Wildfires

Infamous Santa Ana winds returned to Southern California, combining with dry conditions to elevate wildfire danger across the region



    Emergency Declarations Made for SoCal Wildfires
    AFP via Getty Images
    A firefighter walks near a backfire during the Saddleridge fire in Newhall, California on October 11, 2019. - Much of California was on high alert Friday as wind-driven wildfires tore through the state's south, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and destroying multiple structures and homes. Fire officials said an 89-year-old woman died in Calimesa, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, when fire swept through a trailer park overnight after the driver of a garbage truck that caught fire dumped his burning load nearby. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

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    As wildfires scorch Southern California hillsides, state and local officials have signed emergency declarations in response to several fires that have hit Southern California.

    The declarations free up resources to support firefighting efforts in Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

    Firefighters worked to protect homes as the fast-moving wildfire spread across parts of the San Fernando Valley, forcing evacuations, threatening thousands of homes and closing major freeways.

    Mandatory evacuations affected about 100,000 people and more than 20,000 homes are in place for several communities north of Los Angeles early Friday. Porter Ranch, Granada Hills and Sylmar are under evacuation due to the 7,500-acre Saddleridge fire, which began Thursday night in Sylmar.

    Containment was at 13 percent Friday afternoon.

    One fatality was reported -- a man who suffered a heart attack during the fire. The man is believed to be in his late 50s.

    About 31 structures were damaged.

    The fire spread quickly overnight due to strong winds, which can pick up embers and blow them into neighborhoods. Red flag warnings, indicating high fire risk, were extended until 6 p.m. Saturday for parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

    "As you can imagine the embers from the wind have been traveling a significant distance which causes another fire to start," LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said.

    The 118, 5, 14 and 210 freeways are all closed in the area. The northbound side of the 405 Freeway also remains closed. 

    It was a sleepless night for Porter Ranch resident Gordon Wolf. He arrived at an evacuation center early Friday in Granada Hills.

    "It was the smell, and finally a police car came up the street," Wolf said. "My wife pretty well prepared everything. She had everything packed in suitcases. Bless her heart."

    Several homes were seen burning in Granada Hills, and the LA fire department said an "unknown number" of homes were potentially threatened.

    "We need you to leave," said LAPD Chief Michel Moore. "It will save your life."

    There were no reports of injuries.

    Some evacuation centers filled up Friday morning as residents, some of whom spent the night away from their homes, waited out the flames. Some homeowners were allowed back into their neighborhoods Friday morning.

    Infamous Santa Ana winds returned to Southern California Thursday, combining with dry conditions to elevate wildfire danger across the region. The winds fan flames, contributing to alarming rates of spread and generating some of California's worst wildfires.

    Windy conditions are expected through Friday, indicating a busy day ahead for firefighters throughout Southern California.

    The Saddleridge fire erupted Thursday night in Sylmar, shutting down freeways and prompting evacuations, including nearly 300 children housed at a juvenile hall, officials said. The children were being evacuated in county transport vehicles and were taken to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, Public Information Officer Kerri Webb said. 

    The blaze shut down the 210 Freeway where it meets the 5 Freeway in Sylmar. The flames jumped over the 210 Freeway from the westbound to the eastbound side.

    Until now, Southern California had been spared the large wildfires that devastated the state last year, when the largest, most destructive and deadliest fires on record burned in California. Above-average soil moisture, steady winter rains and high humidity are some of the reasons, along with onshore winds that help keep humidity in place. Without dry brush that acts as fuel, fires can't spread as quickly.

    Los Angeles Fire Chief: ‘This Is a Very Dynamic Fire’

    [NATL] Los Angeles Fire Chief: ‘This Is a Very Dynamic Fire’

    Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas updates reporters on the Saddleridge wildfire, which has burned at least 4,000 acres north of Los Angeles.

    (Published Friday, Oct. 11, 2019)