Amid Santa Ana wind conditions believed to be the worst in a decade, a brush fire raged out of the Kagel Canyon area above Sylmar Tuesday and raced across 11,000 acres, destroying about 30 homes and forcing more than 100,000 people from their homes.
The blaze, dubbed the Creek Fire, was reported at 3:42 a.m. in the area of Gold Creek and Little Tujunga roads, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The fire consumed 4,000 acres by 8:30 a.m. and blanketed 11,000 acres with zero containment by early afternoon.
Fire officials said late Tuesday they would not have an updated acreage figure until Wednesday morning. But as of Tuesday night, at least 30 homes had been destroyed, about 20 of them in the Little Tujunga, Kagel Canyon and Lopez Canyon areas.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said evacuation orders were affecting about 150,000 residents, but a Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman put the number at around 120,000.
As of 7 p.m., an estimated 11,377 acres had burned and 2,500 structures were threatened, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which was in unified command with the Los Angeles city and county fire departments.
Garcetti urged residents to heed orders to evacuate — saying, “Do not wait. Leave your home.” — and added that people should be prepared to spend at least one night away from home.
“Do not expect to back tonight,” Garcetti said.
An estimated 600 firefighters and other personnel were on the lines battling the blaze, which was being pushed by sustained winds of 25 mph, along with gusts up to 45 mph.
Three helicopters, 90 engines and two bulldozers were also deployed, according to the Forest Service.
Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas warned that the firefight is likely to continue until at least Friday.
“This has only just begun,” he said.
The Los Angeles Police Department was on a citywide tactical alert, which allows commanders maximum flexibility in deploying resources.
One firefighter was hospitalized after a bulldozer rolled over in the Sunland-Tujunga area, but the injury was not considered to be life-threatening. A second firefighter was also injured, with Terrazas telling ABC7 the firefighter was burned when a propane tank exploded.
There were no other immediate reports of injuries.
“We have no reports of any civilian fatalities or injuries, which speaks to the fact people are evacuating,” county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
The Foothill (210) Freeway was closed in both directions between the Golden State (5) Freeway on the west and the Glendale (2) Freeway and wasn’t expected to be reopened until at least Wednesday morning. The 210 interchange with the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway was also closed.
As the fire expanded and jumped south of the Foothill Freeway, so did the mandatory evacuation area. Evacuations were initially ordered in the area north of the Foothill Freeway from Glenoaks Boulevard on the west to the border with La Crescenta on the east.
But by early afternoon, the eastern border of the evacuation area had been enlarged to the Haynes Canyon area. Also, an area south of the Foothill Freeway was ordered evacuated in the Shadow Hills area, in a roughly triangular area between Sunland Boulevard to the south, Wentworth Street to the north and Tuxford Street to the west, officials said.
Evacuation centers were opened at:
— Sylmar Recreation Center, 13109 Borden Ave.;
— Branford Recreation Center, 13306 Branford St., Arleta;
— Sun Valley Recreation Center, 8133 Vineland Ave.;
— Granada Hills Recreation Center, 16730 Chatsworth St.;
— Stonehurst Recreation Center, 9901 Dronfield Ave., Sun Valley;
— Valley Plaza Recreation Center, 12240 Archwood St., North Hollywood;
— North Hollywood Recreation Center, 11430 Chandler Blvd.;
— Chatsworth South Recreation Center, 22360 Devonshire St.;
— Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Recreation Center, 14201 Huston St., Sherman Oaks;
— Mason Recreation Center, 10500 Mason Ave., Chatsworth;
— Woodland Hills Recreation Center, 5858 Shoup Ave.;
— Delano Recreation Center, 15100 Erwin St., Van Nuys;
— Balboa Recreation Center, 17015 Burbank Blvd., Encino;
— Victory Vineland Recreation Center, 11117 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood;
— Yosemite Recreation Center, 1840 Yosemite Drive, Eagle Rock;
— Glassell Park Recreation Area, 3650 Verdugo Road; and
— Chevy Chase Recreation Center, 4165 Chevy Chase Drive, Atwater Village.
All of the centers were accepting evacuees and pets with an owner.
An evacuation center had been opened at the Sunland Senior Center at 8640 Fenwick St., but that center was closed as the fire closed in.
The fire also forced a mass evacuation of large animals, primarily horses but also others such as alpacas.
Large-animal evacuation centers at Pierce College, the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and Hansen Dam Recreation Area quickly reached capacity. The Pomona Fairplex and the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds in Lancaster also opened stables for evacuated animals.
For small animals, shelters were in place at West Valley Animal Shelter, 20655 Plummer St., and the East Valley Animal Shelter, 14409 Vanowen St.
The fire affected a number of schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Students at a variety of Los Angeles Unified School District campuses were affected by the fire, with students diverted to alternate campuses to keep them out of the fire’s path.
LAUSD officials said the following district campuses will be closed Wednesday:
— Mount Gleason Middle School;
— Verdugo Hills High School;
— Apperson Street Elementary School;
— Brainard Elementary;
— Harding Elementary School;
— Hubbard Elementary School;
— Mountain View Elementary School;
— Pinewood Elementary;
— Pinewood Early Education Center;
— Stonehurst Elementary;
— Sunland Elementary;
— Mount Lukens Continuation High School;
— Plainview Academic Charter Academy; and
— Vaughn Next Century Learning Center.
Los Angeles Mission College’s Main Campus at 13356 Eldridge Ave. and the East Campus at 12890 Harding St., both in Sylmar, were closed for the day, but the Sunland-Tujunga Campus at 7224 Foothill Blvd. in Tujunga remained open.
There was no immediate word if classes would resume Wednesday.
Osby said high winds hindered the deployment of firefighting fixed- wing aircraft, although more than a half-dozen water-dropping helicopters were being used in the effort.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck earlier warned that given the Santa Ana winds that are expected to continue through the week, fire and law enforcement officials will be stretched to the limit. He joined a chorus of officials urging residents to immediately evacuate if they are told to do so.
“If you stay in your homes, you cause our resources to be diverted to take care of you, and you are part of the problem,” Beck said.
–City News Service
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