One dead in Sylmar, multiple communities ordered to evacuate
Wind-driven brush fires that began earlier this week throughout California have caused massive, power outages, freeway closures, mandatory evacuations, and at least one death so far, and it’s really only the beginning.
In the Southland, 23,000 homes were placed under mandatory evacuation orders on the morning of Friday, October 11. According to fire officials, the brush fire began just after 9 p.m. on Thursday night.
By 2 p.m. on Friday, the fire scorched through 7,542 acres.
One person identified as a civilian male died from cardiac arrest, Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas confirmed in a news conference on Friday morning.
“The fact that community members heeded evacuation warnings early made a huge difference, allowing firefighters to enter those communities and protect properties,” LA County Fire Chief Deputy David R. Richardson said.
As of press time, 13% of the fire has been contained. More than 1,000 firefighters are currently battling the fires.
Mandatory evacuations were set in place for at least 13,000 homes in all of Porter Ranch from Reseda to De Soto, Oakridge Estates (north of the 210 Freeway), West of Balboa (north of Sesnon to the Ventura County border).
Porter Ranch resident Caroline Mead told the Asian Journal that she and her family had to evacuate on Friday morning and described the scene in her hometown as “hellish.”
The Filipina mother of two said in a phone interview on Friday that her family, like her entire neighborhood, had to retreat to one of the evacuation centers in their community.
“It doesn’t look as bad as last year, but as we know it’s only the beginning of these fires,” Mead said in a phone interview on Friday. “All our doors and windows were closed, but you could still smell the smoke because it was just all around [our neighborhood.] We evacuated immediately, and I pray that our home is still intact.”
On Friday afternoon, Chair of the LA County Board of Supervisors Janice Hahn issued a local emergency in response to the Saddleridge Fire which will allow the county to impose emergency operations like order more evacuations and provide “expedited” resources to affected residents and first responders.
“This local emergency proclamation will ensure that our firefighters and first responders have the support, authority and resources they need to protect life and property. I want to thank the firefighters on the front lines of this deadly fire and urge all residents to follow evacuation orders,” Hahn said in a statement.
The Saddleridge Fire prompted officials to close the following freeways: Southbound 5 Freeway at Calgrove Boulevard, Northbound 5 Freeway at 11 Freeway, Southbound 14 Freeway at Newhall Avenue, Westbound 210 Freeway at 118 Freeway, Northbound 405 Freeway at 118 Freeway, 118 Freeway connector to the westbound 210 Freeway and the 118 Freeway connector to the northbound 405 Freeway.
But the Saddleridge Fire is only one of the several fires that are still threatening communities. The Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa in Riverside County has so far scorched through 823 acres, and strong Santa Ana winds from the east continue to blow at 30 mph, Riverside County officials said. That fire is 10% contained as of press time.
Smoke from the multiple fires also caused officials in LA and Riverside counties to release a smoke advisory, warning residents in and around affected areas of unsafe air quality as the fires continue.
The fires ignited amid Southern California Edison’s decision to cut power of 20,000 homes in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Kern counties due to concern over the Santa Ana winds. The electric company said it was concerned that power lines could catch fire or existing fires could quickly spread to other parts of the state.
In Northern California, the Eagle Fire in El Cerrito destroyed about 30 acres of land, causing Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to cut electricity for 2 million customers in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Sierra Foothills. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)