The Saddleridge fire made a dangerous march through the northern foothills of the San Fernando Valley late Thursday, sending residents fleeing and others trying to evacuate animals.
Kim Thompson, who lives at the intersection of Sesnon Boulevard and Jolette Avenue in Granada Hills, took her dog out at 10 p.m. Thursday and immediately smelled the smoke.
After reading about the fire on Twitter and realizing it was sizable, Thompson evacuated her home about midnight, taking just her dog. The flames by then were “bright orange, terrifying to look at,” she said.
Later, she admits, she doubled back to retrieve a bottle of wine. Her neighbors were less willing to leave: “Up here, we’re stubborn. My neighbors are spraying their roofs right now.”
She was waiting to hear the fate of her neighborhood at a strip mall downhill from her home on Balboa Boulevard, where many residents had decamped.
A little after 1 a.m. Friday, Thompson heard from a friend that fire crews were allowing two homes on Jolette Avenue to burn to the ground. She thought back to the Aliso Canyon and Sayre fires, which burned to the very edge of her cul-de-sac.
“We’ve been through a lot, but we choose to live here,” she said.
“You’re on edge. You think you get used to it,” Thompson said, the wind whipping ash and through the air, watering the eyes with smoke, “but you can’t really get used to this.”
Also early Friday, several Sylmar residents stood in a neighborhood about three miles from Oakridge Estates, which is under mandatory evacuation, watching the fire burn in the mountains beyond them.
Iván DeGuzman, 34, said he had packed his car hours before, after receiving a text from a friend alerting him to the fire in the area. He loaded up passports, clothes and some other items into the vehicle.
He recalled how the street by his home was covered in smoke and ash during a massive 2008 wildfire in Sylmar. He had evacuated then, but said that it’s still too early to leave now. “We’re waiting for mandatory evacuations,” he said.
Evacuations were ordered in parts of Sylmar as well as areas of Granada Hills and Porter Ranch north of Sesnon Boulevard. The fire began in Sylmar but is moving to the west toward foothill communities.
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Firefighters and residents battled flames as they moved into neighborhoods, in some cases burning onto walls of homes before being stopped. Several trucks caught fire at a warehouse facility in Sylmar.
At least two homes caught fire on Jolette Street in Granada Hills. The owner of one of the homes said he noticed flames about 9:30 p.m. and evacuated with his family.
A few hours later, he returned to see his home burning. He said his family didn’t have time to collect many belongings.
“It was surreal,” he told KCBS-TV. “We left with the clothes on our back.”