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Fast-moving wildfire destroys 5,000 acres; homes evacuated in L.A., Burbank

A fast-moving brush fire grew to 3,000 acres in the Verdugo Mountains on Saturday morning, threatening homes and keeping the 210 Freeway closed.

Hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze overnight and into the morning. At one point, the flames were spreading in four directions at once amid intense heat and wild winds. As of 5 a.m., no homes had been lost and no injuries had been reported, officials said.

As strong, erratic winds pushed a band of flames over the canyon ridgeline, authorities ordered those living in the Brace Canyon Park area and Castleman Estates to “leave immediately” and head to evacuation shelters, according to an alert issued late Friday night by the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The overall evacuation order affects about 200 homes, based on streets identified by police. Those evacuations were expected to remain in place through the afternoon.

The flames were expected to reach firefighters’ defense lines after midnight, according to LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart.

An evacuation center was set up at Sunland Recreation Center in the 8600 block of Foothill Boulevard in Sunland and McCambridge Park in the 1500 block of North Glenoaks Boulevard in Burbank.

Dubbed the La Tuna fire, the blaze has already forced the closure of a miles-long stretch of the 210 Freeway and threatened dozens of homes in the Tujunga area. The 210 was expected to remain closed through Saturday morning, officials said.

The fire was reported before 1:30 p.m. on the south side of the 210 in the 10800 block of La Tuna Canyon Road , said LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart.

The blaze was initially estimated at an acre or less, but a wind shift about 2 p.m. sent embers flying a quarter-mile north across the freeway, where they landed in dry brush and sparked another fire, Stewart said.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said at 5 p.m. that the fire had spread to about 500 acres, and dozens of firefighters were working on the ground to halt the forward progress of the flames.

The fire quadrupled in size by 9:30 p.m. LAFD Capt. ErikScott described the blaze as “topography-driven,” burning in different directions in the canyons and predominantly heading toward Burbank. It was about 10 percent contained, Scott said.

No injuries or structural damage were reported.

Residents in Haines Canyon and Reverie Canyon were under a voluntary evacuation order, with about 200 households affected, Terrazas said. However, fluctuating winds had diminished the threat to both neighborhoods, fire officials said.

“The winds are continuing to shift, so it’s a very dynamic fire,” Scott said.

Firefighters worked to surround the blaze as multiple choppers performed water drops “to take the heat out of the head of the fire,” Scott said.

Earlier Friday, temperatures reached 106 degrees around the fire thanks to a severe ongoing heat wave, while gusts of wind blasted over ridge tops at up to 50 mph, said Carol Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. At the same time, unstable air was creating a strong rising motion, sending plumes of black smoke and heat sky-high.

“It just really stokes the fire,” Smith said. “I mean, when it’s hot and the gusty winds, it’s been a bad mix of different things.”

At least 350 firefighters and other personnel raced to contain the flames as residents in the nearby canyons stood watch.

Ryan Tanker said he was driving home Friday when he saw the plumes of smoke and phoned his father. James Tanker urged his son to return to their property along Estepa Drive.

The two men loaded a trailer and an RV with their possessions, including a filing cabinet stocked with legal documents and their collection of red wines.

“We’re not savages,” James Tanker quipped.

The Tankers and their neighbors waited outside their homes and watched periodic flare-ups — mindful that a switch in the wind could force them to evacuate.

The 210 had been shut down from the 118 Freeway to the 2 Freeway.

By 10 p.m., the California Highway Patrol had reduced the closure to a roughly 4½-mile stretch. Westbound traffic on the 210 was closed from the 2 to Sunland Boulevard, according to CHP Officer Elizabeth Kravig. Eastbound traffic was closed from Sunland Boulevard to Lowell Avenue.

Earlier, hundreds of cars had been trapped on the westbound lanes for several hours, said LAPD Deputy Chief John A. Sherman, calling it a “very significant traffic problem.”

Officials directed those vehicles to eastbound lanes and onto Foothill Boulevard, Sherman said. By 7 p.m., the vehicles had been cleared from the freeway.

To stem the blaze’s growth, firefighters from Pasadena, the U.S. Forest Service, Burbank and the Los Angeles County Fire Department were on the scene.

A battalion chief and five engines from the Glendale Fire Department were also assisting in the fight, said Anita Shandi, a department spokeswoman.

“Our biggest worry right now is the winds and dry conditions,” she said.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

doug.smith@latimes.com

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Times staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.


UPDATES:

5:20 a.m.: Updated with new acres lost.

4:30 a.m. Updated with details from overnight firefighting.

12:55 a.m.: This article was updated with minor editing.

12:15 a.m.: This article was updated with details on the fire’s growth.

12:05 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details on evacuations in Burbank.

11:00 p.m.: This article was updated with details on the evacuation orders in Burbank.

10:05 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details on road closures and the size of the fire.

9:00 p.m.: This article was updated with new details on the spread of the fire, evacuations and road closures.

7:40 p.m.: This article was updated with details from residents in Tujunga.

7:10 p.m.: This article was updated with confirmation that the fire was 10% contained.

6:45 p.m.: This article was updated with details on the relocation of the evacuation center.

5:40 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details on the fire’s growth to about 500 acres.

5:05 p.m.: This article was updated with details on evacuations.

4:15 p.m.: This article was updated with details about conditions at the fire.

4:00 p.m.: This article was updated with details about evacuations.

This article was originally published at 3:20 p.m.

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