As crews battle Martindale fire, heat and dry conditions keep L.A. County on edge

A water drop is made from a helicopter on the Martindale fire burning above Bouquet Canyon Road, north of Santa Clarita.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

As temperatures in Southern California spike amid a fall heat wave, fears of fire weather continue.

Hot, dry conditions are fueling large blazes and small brush fires across Los Angeles County.

On Monday afternoon, the Martindale fire broke out in the Bouquet Canyon area of the Santa Clarita Valley and jumped to more than 200 acres in less than 30 minutes, the U.S. Forest Service said.


Evacuation orders were issued from the Bouquet Reservoir Dam south to Mile Marker 11.5, and fire crews deployed more than a dozen aircraft in an aerial attack against the fire.

Crews worked overnight to build containment lines, and as of Tuesday morning, the blaze was 40% contained, officials said.

Earlier in the day, a small brush fire broke out near Acton amid red flag warnings across the region. The blaze, which ignited shortly before noon, was quickly stopped by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

“Fire was held at 10 acres,” the Fire Department said in a tweet. “No structures damaged. No injuries to civilians or firefighters.”

Southeast of the Martindale fire, the formidable Bobcat fire continues to burn. It ignited Sept. 6 in the Angeles National Forest and has chewed through more than 114,000 acres. As of Tuesday morning, it was 62% contained, but its smoldering status could shift at any time, officials said.


“The fuels are critically dry,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Larry Smith said, “and until we get moisture, the fuels are going to remain critically dry. You’re going to continue to see smoke, continue to see flames.”

Estimates for the fire’s containment were pushed back Tuesday by one month, to Oct. 30, the Forest Service said. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said evacuations for the community of Wrightwood have been lifted.

High temperatures and low humidity that arrived in the region Monday are expected to last throughout the week, while gusty winds had mostly dissipated Tuesday.

A heat advisory has been issued for valleys in Los Angeles and Ventura counties through 8 p.m. Thursday.

Wednesday will be the hottest day in the region, with temperatures reaching into the triple digits in the valleys and in the 80s and 90s along the coasts, the National Weather Service said.

“Strong high pressure over the West Coast will dominate the weather for the week, bringing hot and dry conditions,” forecasters warned.

Once again, wind-driven flames tear through Santa Rosa, as wildfires besiege California’s wine country.

Sept. 29, 2020

And although Monday’s red flag warning for gusty winds has been removed, officials said Angelenos should stay vigilant.

“The Bobcat fire started in a time when we didn’t have a red flag warning,” said Mike Wofford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “It doesn’t require red flag conditions to get major fires.”

Wofford said other factors, such as dry grass and vegetation, can encourage the spread of a blaze.

“Things are drier than they would be normally this time of year,” he said. “We haven’t had rain in a long time, so that’s another part of the equation: These fuels are really ripe to go.”

Forest Service spokesman Andrew Mitchell said resources will remain on both the Bobcat and the Martindale fires Tuesday and throughout the week, noting there is always a potential for any fire to reignite.

Wofford agreed: “We can’t let our guard down for a long time,” he said.