Helicopter dropping water
A helicopter drops water on the Creek Fire. Courtesy Los Angeles County Sheriff

Tens of thousands of residents forced to evacuate because of the Creek Fire in the hills above Sylmar were being allowed to return home Thursday evening as firefighters continue to make progress against the wind- driven blaze, which has destroyed or damaged 30 homes and scorched 12,605 acres.

The fire broke out at 3:42 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Gold Creek and Little Tujunga roads in the Kagel Canyon area. Almost 1,700 firefighters and other personnel were deployed Thursday against the blaze, which was 10 percent contained as of mid-afternoon.

The containment figure is likely to go up Thursday evening, Mayor Eric Garcetti said at an afternoon news briefing in which he reported that the fire has destroyed 15 homes and damaged another 15.

Red-flag parking restrictions will be lifted at 8 a.m. Friday.

Evacuation orders were lifted late Thursday afternoon for most of the Creek Fire-affected area, with the exception of parts of the Shadow Hills and Riverwood neighborhoods, as well as the Limekiln Canyon area.

Three firefighters suffered what were considered to be minor injuries Tuesday.

Virginia Padilla, whose family owns a ranch in Sylmar, told reporters the fire killed at least 30 of the ranch’s horses. Padilla said she and her family were able to get out of her home just in time Tuesday morning but were not able to take their horses with them.

Evacuation orders first issued Tuesday affected about 150,000 households citywide, according to Garcetti who said “thousands upon thousands of homes” had been protected over the past few days.

“Obviously, this is a fire that is burning much less intensely,” Garcetti said Thursday afternoon, while warning that conditions remain unpredictable with strong winds expected through the weekend.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and some on the west side of Los Angeles — a total of 265 district schools and charter schools — were closed Thursday and will remain shuttered Friday. A full list of closed schools was available at www.lausd.net.

To assist families affected by the closures, the LAUSD planned set up special centers between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with meals will be available for students, at:

— Byrd Middle School, 8501 Arleta Ave. in Sun Valley;

— Reseda High School, 18230 Kittridge St. in Reseda; and

— Palms Middle School, 10860 Woodbine St. in Palms.

Classes were canceled at Cal State Northridge because high winds and smoke in the San Fernando Valley have affected air quality and traffic conditions around the campus. Classes were to resume on Friday.

An estimated 2,500 structures were threatened by the Creek Fire at one point, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which was fighting the blaze in a unified command with the Los Angeles city and county fire departments.

Terrazas warned that the battle was likely to continue until at least Friday.

The LAPD was placed on a citywide tactical alert, which allows commanders to keep officers beyond the end of their shifts, giving them maximum flexibility in deploying resources. The alert was lifted about 5 p.m. Thursday.

As the fire burned on Tuesday, the Foothill (210) Freeway was closed in both directions between the Golden State (5) Freeway and the Glendale (2) Freeway, but the freeway had been reopened by Wednesday afternoon, though some freeway ramps remained closed, according to the California Highway Patrol.

–City News Service

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