A raging brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains that began Friday afternoon has consumed over 5,800 acres and destroyed three structures as it continues to threaten homes in the Southland late Saturday evening.
More than 800 firefighters from across Los Angeles County have battled the blaze throughout most of Friday and well into Saturday afternoon. The fire led L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to sign a declaration of local emergency.
In a statement posted online, Garcetti said the declaration directs city agencies to take the necessary steps at stopping the fire. He said it also calls on Gov. Jerry Brown to declare an emergency so that state and federal assistance can be provided in combating the fire.
“We are grateful for the men and women of LAFD, and all our partner agencies, for their heroic efforts to attempt to bring the fire under control and to keep people and their homes safe,” he said.
Margaret Stewart, a spokeswoman for the L.A. Fire Department, said the brush fire has remained at 10% containment since 7 p.m. Friday.
Dubbed the La Tuna fire, it began as a small brush fire around 1:30 p.m. Friday in the 10800 block of West La Tuna Canyon Road in Sun Valley. High winds and a weeklong, triple-digit heatwave across the area helped fuel its growth, according to the L.A. Fire Department. Garcetti said during a press conference Saturday morning that the fire is the largest fire in the city’s history in terms of acreage.
Despite the fire doubling in size overnight, only three structures have been destroyed, said L.A. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, during a Saturday afternoon press conference.
While no one has been killed or severely injured, two firefighters did suffer from dehydration. They are reported to be in stable condition, authorities said.
Terrazas said officials confirmed two of the destroyed buildings were homes and the other was an unknown type of structure.
All three were fairly isolated in the foothills of the Tujunga area, he said. Terrazas said the structures were “written off” early into the fire because of their location.
He added the buildings were also closely surrounded by a large amount of brush. Not only did the brush increase the likelihood of the structures catching fire but it also posed a safety risk to firefighters.
“I can’t encourage enough that all property owners clear their brush a minimum of 200 feet,” he said.
Keeping property clear of brush gives authorities a better chance at dealing with wildfires, Terrazas added.
Wind, Heat, and Smoke Concerns
The National Weather Service said the intense heat will continue to impact the area throughout the weekend, with temperatures reaching in excess of 110 degrees.
“Without a doubt, our biggest concern is the wind and weather,” Terrazas said. “The erratic weather is our number one challenge.”
A sudden shift in wind patterns could force the fire in on itself or further toward populated areas, he said.
The fire also prompted the South Coast Air Quality Management District to issue a smoke advisory over the weekend, warning people to stay indoors as winds carry smoke and ash from the fire to nearby areas.
People are also encouraged to keep their doors and windows closed to prevent any smoke damage or ash getting inside.
Freeway and Street Closures
The fire closed down the Foothill (210) Freeway between Lowell and Wheatland avenues. Stewart said that closure has remained in effect. The California Highway Patrol urged motorists to use alternative routes.
Additional closures were reported in the city of Burbank with Country Club Drive at South Via Montana closed to traffic as well as Walnut Avenue and Harvard Road at Sunset Canyon.
By Friday evening, the fire prompted mandatory evacuation orders in Burbank because it began to spread near homes in the city’s foothills. Officers from the Burbank Police Department went door to door informing residents of the order.
“For the most part, people have responded positively to it,” Sgt. Derek Green with the Burbank Police Department said. “There are those that have decided to stay; we strongly discourage it.”
Residents were told to head to the McCambridge Recreation Center, which city officials and the Red Cross had set up as an evacuation center.
By 10 p.m. Saturday, the order was lifted and Burbank residents were allowed to return to their homes. However, evacuation orders remained for residents in other affected areas.
The fire also made its way into Glendale overnight, with several hundred acres burned within city limits.
City spokesman Tom Lorenz said residents in the Glenwood Oaks and Mountain Oaks neighborhoods should prepare to voluntarily evacuate.That was upgraded to a mandatory evacuation order by 11 a.m. Saturday.
The city also enacted a voluntary evacuation order for Whiting Woods and Oakmont Woods.
Officials designated Crescenta Valley High School as an evacuation center.
Representatives from the Pasadena Humane Society are on hand at the high school to help Glendale pet owners temporarily relocate their animals.
Mandatory evacuations have also been ordered in L.A. City for the McGroarty Park and Sunland areas. Stewart said residents in those areas should head to the Sunland Park Recreation Center.
As of noon on Saturday, between 500 to 1,000 residents living in 700 homes have been evacuated from areas affected by the fire.
11:53 p.m.: This article was updated with minor editing
10:28 p.m.: This article was updated with information about Burbank lifting its evacuation order and the amount of acreage destroyed.
6:46 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the mayor of Los Angeles regarding a declaration of emergency.
4:29 p.m.: This article was updated with the number of structures destroyed by the fire and additional evacuation information.
1:11 p.m.: This article was updated to include a map from the L.A. Fire Department that depicts the general area of the fire.
12:34 p.m.: This article was updated with information about a home burning down, quotes from the L.A. Fire Chief and new information regarding evacuations in Burbank, Glendale and Sunland.
This article was originally published at 9:35 a.m.