Firefighters make progress on fast-moving Santa Clarita blaze; 14 Freeway is reopened

A car crash sparked a fire in Santa Clarita that quickly spread to 750 acres Sunday afternoon and triggered mandatory evacuations in some neighborhoods, authorities said.

At 7 p.m. Sunday the fire was 50% contained, said Cpt. Keith Mora, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The blaze broke out about 1 p.m. near the intersection of the 14 Freeway and Placerita Canyon Road when a motorist drove her car into a tree, according to the county fire department.

The fast-moving fire jumped the freeway, sending up a towering plume of gray smoke that was visible for miles. About 76 homes in the area lost power Sunday afternoon.

The driver of the crashed vehicle was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, said Joey Marrone, a spokesman with the fire department.

A firefighter injured in the blaze was also hospitalized, Marrone said.

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.

Near another flank of the fire, an NBC Los Angeles news van suddenly caught fire while a photographer was outside the vehicle. The photographer was unharmed, and the news station issued a statement saying the fire in the van was unrelated to the Placerita fire.

The 14 Freeway had been closed on both sides, creating long traffic pileups in both directions. It was reopened by Sunday evening.

Rudy Montanez, 61, said the gridlock was forcing his family to miss a friend’s 85th birthday party, complete with mariachi band, in Northridge.

He, his wife and three hungry grandchildren were stuck for three hours.

Last year, a brush fire had stranded some family members on a freeway for six hours, Montanez said.

“It’s not as scary as last time,” said his granddaughter, Cherish.

Gamal Habib, 63, was caught in the same jam. He made a U-turn on the 14 Freeway and drove in the opposite direction to escape, he said.

“They didn’t do a good job of signaling that they had closed an entrance,” Habib said.

More than 400 firefighters, four helicopter crews and two air tankers were battling the blaze Sunday.

As the fire spread, The Gentle Barn, an educational nonprofit in Santa Clarita, tweeted a call for neighbors with trucks and trailers to help evacuate horses and other livestock.

In emergency situations, people often stay in their homes because they’re afraid of what might happen to their animals, said Ellie Laks, the organization’s founder.

By the time the winds had died down and firefighters were beginning to contain the fire, no one had taken the volunteers’ offer.

“That’s a good fire,” Laks said. “Hopefully the rest of the fire season will be like that.”

By 7:30 pm, Laks had returned to the organization’s six-acre property, where horses cantered as if nothing had happened and a peacock stood atop a gazebo, fanning its turquoise feathers.

Santa Clarita on Sunday was experiencing dry conditions and temperatures up to 109 degrees, said Todd Hall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Slightly cooler temperatures and wetter conditions are expected on Monday, Hall said.

Another fire broke out Sunday afternoon near the intersection of the 170 Freeway and Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood, said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

It’s possible that someone in a nearby homeless encampment in the area could have caused the fire, Humphrey said. No structures or people were harmed, but authorities briefly closed a ramp leading to the 170 Freeway.

This post will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

frank.shyong@latimes.com

joy.resmovits@latimes.com

maya.lau@latimes.com


UPDATES:

8:40 p.m.: This story was updated with details about damage at Golden Oak Ranch, a filming location, and more details from the scene.

6:41 p.m.: This story was updated to reflect new figures about containment and fire acreage.

5:55 p.m.: This story was updated with new information about the size of the fire, information about a burning news van and more details from the scene.

4:45 p.m.: This story was updated with new information about weather conditions.

4:28 p.m.: This story was updated with new information from the scene.

4:00 p.m.: This story was updated new information from fire officials.

8:30 pm.: This story was updated with new information from fire officials and from witnesses.

This article was originally posted at 3:25 p.m.

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