‘We are remaining vigilant’: La Tuna fire now mostly contained, over 7,000 acres scorched

After scorching more than 7,000 acres throughout the Labor Day weekend, a massive brush fire that began in the Verdugo Mountains Friday sat at 80% containment, fire officials said Tuesday evening.

While authorities said the La Tuna fire was mostly contained, crews are expected to remain in the area for several more days to further stamp out the blaze and deal with lingering hot spots and potential flare-ups.

“We have an army of boots on the ground that are down and dirty, doing a great job in very rugged and remote terrain,” said Erik Scott, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman, during a press briefing Tuesday morning.

At one point, more than 1,000 firefighters from agencies across the Southland were called in to help. By Tuesday evening, 711 firefighters were still on the scene.

Scott also said there were eight injuries reported during the course of the blaze. Five were heat-related, while one involved a firefighter suffering a minor burn. One person suffered an allergic reaction, and another had to be treated for an unspecified eye injury.

Out of nearly 1,400 buildings in L.A., Burbank and Glendale that were in the immediate path of the flames, only 10 were destroyed — all in Sunland-Tujunga. Five were homes, while the other five were sheds and garage-like structures, Scott said.

L.A. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas previously said several of the structures were destroyed because of their isolation in the foothills and lack of adequate brush clearance.

Attempting to save the buildings would have posed a safety risk for firefighters, he said.

Scott said strategic placement of crews along the fire line and the recent cooler weather helped agencies get a better handle on the fire.

During the fire’s outset, temperatures reached as high as 115 degrees as the area was in the midst of a heatwave. That has since tapered off, with temperatures expected to be in the mid-80s this week, Scott said.

Rain that fell briefly in the area Sunday also contributed favorably to firefighting efforts.

Wind conditions remained relatively low Tuesday, between 3 to 10 mph, but Scott said gusts as high as 18 mph are expected.

“Those gusts can still kick up some embers and create spot fires,” he said. “We are remaining vigilant.”

A smoke advisory issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District has remained in effect since Friday for residents in the San Gabriel Mountains along with those in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. The agency said winds could bring smoke as well as ash to the impacted areas and may lead the air quality to reach unhealthy levels.

District officials advised residents to avoid any vigorous outdoor activity. Older adults, children and people with respiratory or heart issues should also remain indoors with the windows and doors closed.

Because of the health hazard, officials from Glendale and Burbank said hiking trails in both cities were closed until further notice.

The fire first broke out around 1:30 p.m. Friday along a portion of La Tuna Canyon Road near the Foothill (210) Freeway. Fire officials initially estimated its size as less than an acre, but high winds carried embers across the freeway, leading to its growth.

A portion of the freeway was closed for two days while crews battled the expanding blaze.

The fire prompted mandatory evacuations for hundreds of residents in L.A., Burbank and Glendale as flames began to encroach on homes.

By Monday, though, all evacuation orders had been lifted, and residents were allowed to return home.

The fire’s spread and size led L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to sign a declaration of local emergency on Saturday, which directed relevant city agencies to take all necessary steps to combat the blaze. It also called on Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency — which he did on Sunday — so that state and federal resources could be utilized.

Scott said the cause of the fire is unknown, and it remains under investigation.

andy.nguyen@latimes.com

Twitter: @Andy_Truc

ALSO

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La Tuna Canyon fire prompts mandatory evacuations in Burbank; 2,000 acres burned


UPDATES:

11:05 p.m.: This article was updated with the most recent containment figures.

This article was originally published at 3:15 p.m.

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