Firefighters increased containment of the Saddleridge Fire in the northern San Fernando Valley to 72% Friday, as crews braced for another round of strong winds throughout the weekend.
The fire — which has burned 8,799 acres — has destroyed 19 structures and damaged 88 more since erupting about 9 p.m. Oct. 10 off the westbound Foothill (210) Freeway near Yarnell Street and Saddle Ridge Road in Sylmar.
Fire crews were forced to deal with gusting winds overnight, but authorities said despite the conditions, the containment lines held, and firefighters managed to increase containment.
According to the National Weather Service, windy conditions are expected to persist throughout the weekend, culminating in a “weak” Santa Ana wind event beginning Sunday and continuing into mid-week.
A wind advisory will be in effect until 6 p.m. Saturday in the Los Angeles County mountains in the far northern reaches of the county, including Acton, Mount Wilson and Sandberg. The advisory will be replaced with a less serious high wind watch that will continue through Sunday morning and affect the Los Angeles County mountains and Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area.
Closer to the fire zone, a wind advisory will be in effect from 6 p.m. Saturday until 11 a.m. Sunday in the San Fernando Valley, with sustained north winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph. A wind advisory will be in effect during the same hours in the Los Angeles metro area, and from 1 p.m. Saturday until 3 a.m. Sunday in the Antelope Valley.
Forecasters said the strongest winds are expected Saturday night, with “weak Santa Ana winds” anticipated from Sunday night through Tuesday.
Authorities warned that gusting winds could potentially kick up smoldering embers and ignite new blazes in and around the fire zone, and urged residents to call 911 immediately if they spot any fresh flames.
Given the forecasted winds, Southern California Edison again warned of possible “Public Safety Power Shutoffs,” meaning transmission lines in danger of being damaged by high winds could be de-energized to prevent possible wildfires, but resulting in customers losing power.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 22,500 SCE customers were in areas under consideration for power shutoffs, including more than 4,200 in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County areas being considered include Palmdale, Littlerock, Acton, Castaic and Chatsworth.
After breaking out last week, the Saddleridge Fire quickly spread due to wind-blown embers that jumped the Golden State (5) Freeway spreading flames into Granada Hills and Porter Ranch. At the height of the fire, an estimated 100,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders, all of which have since been lifted.
The cause of the blaze remains undetermined, but the point of origin was identified by Los Angeles Fire Department arson investigators as a 50-foot-by-70-foot area beneath a Southern California Edison high-voltage transmission tower near Saddle Ridge Road, officials said.
On Monday, Southern California Gas Co. crews alerted firefighters about flames burning in a roughly 4-foot-by-4-foot patch of soil on the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility property in Porter Ranch. Fire officials said the small blaze did not pose any risks to the public or the storage facility.
That fire was extinguished on Tuesday afternoon, according to SoCalGas.
The utility said it believes the fire was from old crude oil activity, but won’t know for certain until the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the South Coast Air Quality Management District conducts its own tests, ABC7 reported.
SoCalGas officials stressed there was no damage to any equipment at the storage facility and no sign of any leaks. The small fire did not “pose a risk to public safety and there are no impacts to SoCalGas operations at the facility,” according to the Gas Co.
A Porter Ranch resident, identified by neighbors as 54-year-old Aiman Elsabbagh, died of a heart attack Oct. 11 while trying to protect his home from the fire. LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said the man was speaking to firefighters when he went into cardiac arrest, and he died at a hospital.
Los Angeles Park Ranger Capt. Alberto Torres, 67, also suffered a heart attack Oct. 11 at Ranger Headquarters at the Griffith Park Visitor Center, at 4730 Crystal Springs Drive and died the next morning at a hospital.
Torres — a ranger for more than 40 years — had been patrolling the parks impacted by the fire.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday ordered all city flags to lowered to half-staff in honor of Torres.
Eight firefighters suffered minor injuries, including one with an eye injury, fire officials said.
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