Firefighters are welcoming slightly better weather conditions Sunday as they continue to move toward full containment of the Sand Fire.
The fire has burned 41,432 acres and was 93 percent contained as of this morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Monsoonal moisture in and around the fire area is expected to increase the relative humidity to a range of 25 to 40 percent, and slightly cooler temperatures are also expected today, with a high of 94 degrees forecast for Santa Clarita.
Some 1,038 firefighting personnel were working to mop up, put out hot spots and shore up and extend containment lines, according to the USFS.
The fire destroyed 18 homes and killed a man since it broke out July 22 near Sand Canyon Road along the northbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway.
An estimated 20,000 people were evacuated as the fire raged, but all those who evacuated have been allowed to return home, with the last evacuation orders lifted on Friday.
The American Red Cross has closed its evacuation centers at Hart High School in Santa Clarita and Highland High School in Palmdale. The Red Cross had operated five shelters at the fire’s peak. The group said on Saturday that “all remaining shelter residents have been connected with community resources.”
Only two road closures remain in effect: Sand Canyon Road and Placerita Canyon Road going into Bear Divide, and Little Tujunga Canyon Road north of the Wildlife Waystation. An area, road and trail closure is also in effect for a section of the Angeles National Forest A smoke advisory issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District for parts of the Santa Clarita Valley and San Gabriel Mountains is set to expire at midnight. People in those areas with respiratory problems are advised to stay indoors, and all residents are advised to use caution when going outside and to avoid using swamp coolers or wood-burning appliances.
The USFS said the fire was not active on the north, west and south sides. Hot spots are scattered along the southeast side, but the fire is not expected to spread. Firefighters advised people in the area that pockets of unburned vegetation will continue to burn for several days or even weeks, but that does not pose a threat to the contained fire line.
The blaze has been fueled by triple-digit temperatures along with gusty winds and vegetation left dry by the region’s five-year drought. Officials said some areas affected have not burned in decades, leaving terrain covered with dry chaparral.
The deceased victim, whose burned body was found July 23 in a car in the driveway of a house in the 26700 block of Iron Canyon Road, was killed after apparently refusing an order to evacuate.
The coroner’s office identified him as Robert Bresnick, 67.
Following an autopsy, the cause of death was listed as the “consequences of extensive thermal burns,” and the death was classified as an accident, coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said.
Bresnick was visiting a friend at the location and had been advised by authorities to leave. The friend left, but Bresnick did not, Winter said.
Along with the 18 homes destroyed, the fire also tore through a western town set on the Sable Ranch, a well-known filming location.
— City News Service