Firefighters Taming Southern California Blaze as Winds Fade - NBC Bay Area
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Firefighters Taming Southern California Blaze as Winds Fade

The blaze prompted evacuations, road closures that included large swaths of several busy freeways and the cancellation of outdoor events across the region due to extremely poor air quality.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Slowing Winds Aid Saddleridge Firefight

    A break in the Santa Ana winds slowed the growth of the Saddleridge Fire burning in the north San Fernando Valley Oct. 12, 2019. (Published Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019)

    Evacuations orders for the Saddleridge Fire were lifted Saturday evening, after the fire forced tens of thousands of people to be evacuated.

    Updated Story: Residents Wait to See What 'Curtain of Fire' Left Behind

    Growth of the fire slowed overnight as winds slowed and became less erratic.

    The fire has left one person dead, a firefighter injured, and at least 32 homes destroyed or damaged since Thursday night, driven by high winds through the suburban communities in the north valley area.

    The blaze prompted evacuations, road closures that included large swaths of several busy freeways and the cancellation of outdoor events across the region due to extremely poor air quality.

    Impacting areas of Granada Hills, Porter Ranch, and Sylmar -- along with other neighboring communities -- signs of progress in the firefight came Friday afternoon, with previously evacuated residents living south of the 118 Freeway being allowed back into their homes.

    Weather conditions improved Saturday, as winds began to slow into the afternoon and humidity increased.

    The fire had blackened 7,965 acres as of 7 p.m Saturday and was 33% contained.

    The fire was one of several burning in Southern California and prompted local officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare emergency declarations for firefighting resources in Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

    One fatality was reported — a man who suffered a heart attack during the fire as he attempted to defend his home.

    Red flag warnings were extended until 6 p.m. Saturday for parts of LA and Ventura counties.

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

    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."

    Edwin Bernard told The Associated Press that he never saw the flames arrive so quickly or come so close to his home as this time. He watched as the fire swept down a hillside, sizzling through dry grass and igniting trees and bushes and spitting embers over his home of 30 years.

    He and his wife fled in their car, leaving behind medication, photo albums and their four cats. "It was a whole curtain of fire," Bernard said Friday.

    "There was fire on all sides. We had to leave."

    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.

    In addition to the evacuations and freeway closures Thursday, the fire also prompted the evacuation of 300 children housed at a juvenile hall in Sylmar, officials said.

    Arson investigators were probing the cause. A resident told NBCLA that she saw a power pole go up in flames near where authorities say the fire is believed to have started.

    "You could see the glow coming from the ground toward the tower," said Gina Schnell. "This doesn't look good."

    Southern California Edison said it owns the transmission tower, but a spokeswoman would not confirm that was where the fire began. The utility said it could take a long time to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

    Fire officials said they were interviewing witnesses, but had yet to make a determination on the cause of the fire.

    NBCLA's Eric Leonard and Associated Press contributed to this report.