LOCAL L.A. Now

Southern California is blanketed by the smell of wildfires; here's the latest

Southern California woke to the acrid smell of smoke and ash Thursday morning as additional wildfires broke out along the edges of the Los Angeles Basin and Orange County coastline.

Combined with other blazes that ignited earlier in the week, at least half a dozen wildfires have filled the air with a pungent odor long associated with fire season, when hot temperatures and strong winds turn sparks into brush fires.

The scene was particularly noticeable Thursday because an inversion layer had settled over the region, trapping the fumes.

California’s landscape is vulnerable to fast fires as the wettest winter in more than a decade helped lay down a thick carpet of grass that withers rapidly in summer heat.

The fires stretch from San Luis Obispo County in the north to Camp Pendleton in the south and Riverside County in the east. Here is the status of the most recent wildfires:

Christianitos fire

Flames that tore through the northwestern part of Camp Pendleton slowly moved into San Clemente overnight and have burned an estimated 760 acres, the Orange County Fire Authority said Thursday.

Location

San Diego/Orange counties

Acreage

760

Containment

70%

The fire was reported about 6:15 p.m. Wednesday when it was already 15 acres and growing near the San Mateo Campground and Cristianitos Road, according to Camp Pendleton officials.

Officials said the blaze, dubbed the Cristianitos fire, was heading away from the Marine base and was just east of Richard T. Steed Memorial Park, a recreation area next to a cluster of businesses and a golf course.

Crews lit backfires on three sides of the fire overnight to limit its spread, said fire Capt. Larry Kurtz. Backfires are used to burn fuel in the fire’s path.

The western face of the fire closest to homes is protected by extra firefighters, Kurtz said.

https://twitter.com/OCFA_PIO/status/880450095988199424

“The fire has slowed to a crawl. There is no wind, which is a huge benefit to us,” Kurtz said.

The fire is moving based on topography, making its behavior somewhat predictable. The biggest challenge has been how fast it moves.

“During the winter we had heavy rains create a very large grass crop throughout California.… It’s a less intense fire but one that moves very quickly,” Kurtz said.

The fire was 70% contained as of Thursday night.

Crews face off with the Christianitos fire near Camp Pendelton.
Crews face off with the Christianitos fire near Camp Pendelton. (Orange County Fire Authority)

Stokes fire

In Calabasas, firefighters were trying to control a fire that quickly swelled to 40 to 50 acres.

Location

Calabasas

Acreage

40-50

Containment

80%

Located near Malibu Canyon and Mulholland Drive, the so-called Stokes fire was reported about 3 p.m. Thursday and grew in the remote area with moderate winds.

By 4:30 p.m., more than 220 firefighters had stopped the forward progress of the flames. Late Thursday, the fire was 80% contained, according to the L.A. County Fire Department.

One firefighter suffered a heat-related injury, according to the Fire Department.

https://twitter.com/CBSLAPeter/status/880573769047134208

Topanga fire

The Topanga fire was reported near Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway.

Location

Topanga/Malibu area

Acreage

25

Containment

10%

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said that about 25 acres had burned and that firefighters were ready to protect homes in the Malibu area if the fire grew.

As firefighters battled the blaze, motorists faced gridlocked traffic along Pacific Coast Highway and road closures.

The California Highway Patrol said Topanga Canyon Boulevard was closed from Pacific Coast Highway to Grandview Drive until further notice.

A stretch of Pacific Coast Highway was closed during the afternoon and evening, but all lanes were reopened by 9 p.m., according to the CHP.

https://twitter.com/bvdbrug/status/880568296461934592

Burbank fire

The Burbank fire broke out just before 3 p.m. Wednesday near Hamline Place, where it raced up a grassy slope and moved dangerously close to homes in the Verdugo Mountains and briefly triggered mandatory evacuations.

Location

Los Angeles County

Acreage

10

Containment

85-90%

Authorities were concerned because houses “butt right up to the hillside,” Burbank Police Sgt. Derek Green told KNBC-TV Channel 4.

“It was a fast-moving fire,” Green said. “This is a very dry area.”

Television news footage showed thick black smoke and tennis courts burning.

About 15 fire engines responded to the three-alarm blaze, Burbank Fire Battalion Chief Ron Barone told KTLA-TV Channel 5. Five engines were dedicated just to protecting homes, he said.

https://twitter.com/jamieyuccas/status/880421078786494464

The fire spread across 10 acres but did not grow overnight, Barone said. The fire was between 85% and 90% contained Thursday morning, he said.

“Our plan calls for nobody to be on the fire line by 7 tonight,” Barone said. “There’s no push left in it.”

No structures were damaged in the fire, Barone said.

Immediately after the fire began, the Burbank Police Department ordered evacuations of all homes on Viewcrest Drive and Howard Court. Irving Drive was closed east of Kenneth Road, and Joaquin Drive was closed at Haven Way.

But by 8:30 p.m., all evacuations were lifted.

About 150 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, which helped to quickly halt the fire’s growth.

“Our incident commander saw the threat and pulled the trigger,” Barone said.

A home on the top of the hill on Irving Drive is protected from a brush fire with a foam sprayed onto the hillside below it in the foothills above Hamline Place in Burbank.
A home on the top of the hill on Irving Drive is protected from a brush fire with a foam sprayed onto the hillside below it in the foothills above Hamline Place in Burbank. (Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

Manzanita fire

Given light winds and cooling temperatures, crews in Riverside County doubled the containment of the Manzanita fire to 90% by Thursday night. The fire has burned 6,309 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Location

Riverside County

Acreage

6,309

Containment

90%

The blaze was sparked Monday by a car crash along Highway 79 in the San Jacinto Mountains and was fueled by high temperatures, low humidity and wind gusts of up to 35 mph.

Residents in areas like Poppet Flats and Silent Valley spent more than a day under an evacuation warning in which they needed to be prepared to flee if the winds changed and the flames ran down the hills toward their homes. Those warnings were finally lifted Wednesday.

More than 700 firefighters are continuing to work to fully contain the fire and knock down any smoldering hot spots, Cal Fire said.

A firefighter checks on hot spots after the Manzanita fire burned 5,800 acres of rugged terrain and knocked down power poles off Highland Springs Avenue on June 27, 2017 south of  Beaumont.
A firefighter checks on hot spots after the Manzanita fire burned 5,800 acres of rugged terrain and knocked down power poles off Highland Springs Avenue on June 27, 2017 south of Beaumont. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Mart fire

On Tuesday night, another blaze erupted east of San Bernardino and fewer than 30 miles north of the Manzanita fire.

Location

San Bernardino County

Acreage

670

Containment

60%

The Mart fire raced up a steep canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains around 3:15 p.m. Its flames came within feet of igniting a suburban hillside neighborhood and forced residents of roughly 200 homes to evacuate.

Firefighters managed to stop its advance with aircraft and ground crews and lifted evacuation orders a few hours later. Highway 330 was reopened Wednesday.

The fire started near a Wal-Mart at Highland Avenue and Highway 330, a popular thoroughfare that leads to Big Bear.

Reconnaissance flights caused authorities to reduce the estimated size of the blaze. The fire is 670 acres and 60% contained, the U.S. Forest Service said Thursday night.

About 125 firefighters were assigned to the blaze as of Thursday, and the cause is under investigation.

A plane drops fire retardant on the hillsides to battle the Mart fire  near Highway 330 on June 27, 2017 in Highland, California.
A plane drops fire retardant on the hillsides to battle the Mart fire near Highway 330 on June 27, 2017 in Highland, California. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Hill fire

In San Luis Obispo County, the Hill fire started Monday and has burned 1,598 acres. On Thursday, it was 88% contained, Cal Fire said.

The blaze was burning along the eastern foothills of a coastal mountain range near Santa Margarita, among secluded homes and tall, dry grass.

Location

San Luis Obispo County

Acreage

1,598

Containment

88%

Crews spent Wednesday shoring up defensive lines around the fire, including cutting down swaths of trees to create a fuel break for the flames. All road closures in the area have been lifted.

Four homes were destroyed in the fire. According to TMZ, “Big Bang Theory” actor Johnny Galecki’s ranch was among the properties charred by flames.

In a statement to the website, Galecki said: “My heart goes out to all in the area who are also experiencing loss from this vicious fire, the threat of which we live with constantly, which may seem crazy to some but we do so because living in our beautiful, rural area makes it worthwhile. It's never the structures that create a community — it's the people. And if the people of Santa Margarita have taught me anything it's that, once the smoke has cleared, literally and figuratively, it's a time to reach out and rebuild. We've done it before, and will need to do it together again, and it will make our community even closer and stronger. Endless thanks to Cal Fire and the Sheriff's Office. I know you guys are fighting the good fight to keep us safe. So very relieved no one has been hurt."

A burned-out car sits next to a destroyed home after a wildfire in Santa Margarita on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
A burned-out car sits next to a destroyed home after a wildfire in Santa Margarita on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Joe Johnston / AP)

Placerita fire

The Placerita fire started Sunday afternoon when a motorist crashed into a tree, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The blaze burned 760 acres and was 95% contained by the end of Wednesday. Authorities anticipate having the blaze completely out by Thursday, officials said.

Location

Los Angeles County

Acreage

760

Containment

95%

In its first hours over the weekend, the blaze had knocked out power and triggered mandatory evacuations for dozens of residents after it jumped the freeway and sent up a towering plume of gray smoke that was visible for miles.

At Golden Oak Ranch, an 890-acre filming location constructed by Disney and ABC studios, the fire burned a structure that had been used as a prop house, said L.A. County Sheriff's Department spokesman Christopher Craft.

U.S. Forest Service firefighters stopped the blaze from burning other structures in the faux business district and suburban street used for filming movies and television shows.

A battalion chief with the Pasadena Fire Department watches his crew. Firefighters were battling a fast-moving brush fire in the Santa Clarita area that burned 760 acres and prompted the shutdown of Highway 14 in both directions June 25, 2017.
A battalion chief with the Pasadena Fire Department watches his crew. Firefighters were battling a fast-moving brush fire in the Santa Clarita area that burned 760 acres and prompted the shutdown of Highway 14 in both directions June 25, 2017. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times )

Fires statewide

Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service list several other active fires burning in the state from San Diego to Modoc counties, the two largest of which were nearly contained Thursday at about 1,500 acres apiece.

About 2,300 wildfires on state and federal land have burned 26,000 acres so far in 2017, according to government statistics.

The Highway Fire in Sequoia National Forest burns June 18. The fire is 1,500 acres and 100% contained though it's still active.
The Highway Fire in Sequoia National Forest burns June 18. The fire is 1,500 acres and 100% contained though it's still active. (Sequoia National Forest)

Support our journalism

Already a subscriber? Thank you for your support. If you are not, please consider subscribing today. Get full access to our signature journalism for just 99 cents for the first four weeks.

Staff writers Hailey Branson-Potts, Javier Panzar, Sonaiya Kelley and Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

ALSO

Fire burning near homes in Laguna Niguel

Up to 300 acres burn near Camp Pendleton as firefighters rush to protect homes

Brush fire that forced evacuations in Burbank is mostly contained; evacuation orders are lifted

LAPD officer wounded during stakeout; suspect shot in El Segundo

Investigation underway in Burbank after South Pasadena police involved in shooting



UPDATES:

11:20 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the fires across Southern California.

This article was originally published at 11:55 a.m.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°