Three homes burned as foothills wildfire grows to 5,800 acres
The La Tuna fire, one of the largest in Los Angeles history, has destroyed three homes in and around Tujunga.
Hundreds of firefighters fought for control over a 5,800-acre brush fire Saturday in the Verdugo Mountains north of downtown Los Angeles that forced the evacuations of hundreds of homes and shut down a nine-mile stretch of the 210 Freeway.
The La Tuna fire was believed to be one of the largest in L.A. city history in terms of sheer acreage, officials said. The blaze destroyed three homes in Tujunga, but no injuries were reported.
The fire, which shrouded the sky with plumes of white smoke, was only 10% contained late Saturday.
It broke out a day earlier, with shifting winds sending flames in multiple directions. Fire crews confronted the same erratic conditions on Saturday, Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.
“Our biggest concern is the wind and weather,” Terrazas said. “The erratic weather is our No. 1 challenge. If there’s no wind, this is a relatively easy fire to put out. But when the wind changes, it changes our priorities because other properties become at risk.”
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a local emergency Saturday night and asked Gov. Jerry Brown to do the same “so that state and federal assistance can be provided to the city as quickly as possible.”
“We are grateful for the men and women of LAFD, and all of our partner agencies, for their heroic efforts to bring the fire under control and to keep people and their homes safe,” Garcetti said.
Firefighters were hoping for some relief overnight from a heat wave that has gripped much of the state for days.
LA County firefighter Kevin Sleight extinguishes hot spots while battling the La Tuna Canyon fire along Crestline Drive Sunday.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A couple survey the damage as they walk near a cross that remains standing amid the scorched hillside that destroyed three homes and a shed.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A home, cars and property lies in ruins as it was one of three homes and a shed were destroyed in the the La Tuna Canyon fire.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A scorched hillside and car is revealed after the La Tuna Canyon fire moved through the hills near Crestline Drive.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
LA County firefighter Kevin Sleight extinguishes hot spots while battling the La Tuna Canyon fire along Crestline Drive.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
LA Fire Dept. arson investigators search for clues along La Tuna Canyon Rd.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Helicopters continue to drop water on the LA Tuna fire burning in steep terrain in the hills above Burbank.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
A fountain and truck parked in front of a home and property lies in ruin as it was one of three homes and a shed were destroyed in the La Tuna Canyon fire.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
White smoke is visible above Burbank, CA from Olive Ave.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Firefighters work hot spots on steep terrain in the hills above Sun Valley on Sunday morning.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles TImes)
A L.A. County Fire helicopter does a water drop above Villa Cabrini Park in Burbank on Sunday morning.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles TImes)
A number of deer are on the streets and hillsides in Burbank on Sunday morning.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
The La Tuna fire continues to burn above Glendale as the sun begins to rise Sunday morning.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles TImes)
A homeowner uses a hose to water down his roof as the La Tuna fire threatens Sunland on Saturday. The house was spared from the fire.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A helicopter drops water as the La Tuna fire approaches homes on Oro Vista Avenue in Sunland.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A plane does a water drop on the La Tuna fire that crests into Sunland.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles City Fire Fighter Robert Hawkins disappears into the smoke while trying to save homes from the La Tuna fire at the end of Glenties Way in Sunland.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles County Fire Fighters hit hot spots of the La Tuna fire in Sunland.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
The La Tuna fire approaches homes on Oro Vista Avenue in Sunland.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Firefighters work to contain the La Tuna fire near the 210 Freeway.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Scorched earth surrounds homes in the Verdugo Mountains above Burbank as crews battle the La Tuna fire.(Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)
Sunland resident Jeff Dalton sprays water near his home as flames from the La Tuna fire approach.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Residents watch the La Tuna fire raging in the Verdugo Mountains.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Fire continues burn in the Verdugo Hills above Burbank early Saturday morning.(Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)
A stretch of the 210 Freeway is closed due to the La Tuna fire in the nearby Verdugo Mountains.(Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)
Gregory Lasavio evacuates the Glenwood Oaks community as the La Tuna fire rages.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A firefighting aircraft makes a water drop on the La Tuna fire raging in the Verdugo Mountains.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A DC-10 drops fire retardant on the La Tuna fire in Burbank.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A helicopter approaches the Angeles National Golf Club to pick up water to battle the La Tuna fire in the Verdugo Mountains above Sunland-Tujunga.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Brush burns along La Tuna Canyon Road.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A firefighting helicopter makes its way toward the La Tuna fire in the Verdugo Mountains.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Golfers at Angeles National Golf Club play while the La Tuna fire burns nearby in the Verdugo Mountains above Sunland-Tujunga.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Flames from the La Tuna fire burn near La Tuna Canyon Road.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
The La Tuna Fire burns near La Tuna Canyon Road.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Smoke from the La Tuna fire shrouds La Tuna Canyon Road.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
An LAFD helicopter drops water on a hillside to protect homes threatened by the La Tuna fire in the Verdugo Mountains in Tujunga.(Roger Wilson / Burbank Leader)
An LAFD “super-scooper” drops a tankful of water on a brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains in Tujunga.(Roger Wilson / Burbank Leader)
Winds were expected to die down Saturday night as temperatures dropped to the low 80s near the La Tuna fire area, according to the National Weather Service. Humidity was also expected to increase as monsoonal moisture from Tropical Storm Lidia moves into the region. The weather system could bring rain and thunderstorms.
The fire continued to burn on multiple fronts Saturday southwest of the 210 Freeway, which remained closed between the 2 Freeway and Wheatland Avenue. Firefighters encountered punishing heat, with Burbank recording a high of 101 degrees while the Tujunga area reported 96, forecasters said.
Approximately 730 homes were placed under evacuation in Glendale, Burbank and the Sunland and Tujunga neighborhoods of Los Angeles, according to the city’s fire department.
One of those ordered to leave was Chris Hall, 37, who was spraying the roof of his Sunland home with a garden hose when two police officers pulled up to his driveway.
“Now it’s mandatory,” one of the officers told him. “Get your stuff and go.”
Hall said he wanted to stay but did not argue. He piled important documents and cherished belongings — including photos of his daughter’s birth, birthdays and visits to the zoo — into the trunk of his Nissan Sentra.
“Everything else can be replaced,” he said, sitting behind the wheel of his car.
In Tujunga, music teacher Valerie Keith frantically loaded her pets in her car, along with her two best violins, spilling the yogurt she had taken for breakfast. Before she left, she remembered something, dashing back inside to grab a framed photograph of her mother and a banjo made from a tambourine.
“When you have to leave for safety, then you suddenly realize what’s important,” she said.
In Glendale, emergency officials announced mandatory evacuations in the Glenwood Oaks and Mountain Oaks neighborhoods. And in Burbank, police went door to door early Saturday urging residents to evacuate on hillside streets at the city’s northern end.
Those orders followed a series of other evacuations called the night before.
Andrea Heintz, 78, was getting ready for bed Friday night when she saw on the news of an evacuation around Brace Canyon in Burbank, where she lives. She arrived at the hastily assembled Red Cross shelter in Burbank around 11 p.m.
Cots were not set up until 1:30 a.m. Heintz and other evacuees passed the time chatting and watching TV — and stepping outside to look at the burning bright orange in the hills.
“It was really scary,” she said.
Officials warned of poor air quality throughout the region. Burbank police officers were wearing respiratory masks because of the heavy smoke. The South Coast Air Quality Management District on Saturday recommended that children, older adults and people with respiratory disease living in smoke-impacted areas stay indoors.
Amid Saturday’s high temperatures, “you already have an inversion layer holding a lot of ozone and pollutants close to the surface,” said AQMD spokesman Patrick Chandler. “Then you add the fire and all the particulate matter that comes from the ash and the smoke.”
Residents in smoke-heavy areas were also advised to avoid using swamp coolers or whole-house fans to avoid bringing additional smoke indoors.
Evacuation centers were opened at McCambridge Park Recreation Center in Burbank, Sunland Recreation Center in Sunland, and Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta. A large-animal evacuation center was set up at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center in Sylmar.
By mid-afternoon Saturday, more than 30 people had checked into the Burbank shelter. Some took naps to make up for the sleepless night.
Peter Glassberg, 64, brought in four of his cats and four rescue kittens that are up for adoption. Police transported the pets in carriers to animal control vans and drove them to the Burbank Animal Shelter, which is providing temporary shelter.
Glassberg said flames were 20 feet away from the road as he drove his beat-up SUV down the canyon and to the shelter. He arrived wearing faded jeans and a dusty cowboy hat, smelling like a campfire. He hadn’t slept in 32 hours.
Glassberg hugged his favorite cat, a Siamese named My Guy, before handing him over.
Another cat, Baby Girl, had escaped Glassberg’s trailer on La Tuna Canyon Road last week and had not come back before he was evacuated.
He watched when the fire started Friday afternoon and stayed up all night as it threatened to come down the hillside. He was packed and ready to go when the evacuation order came at 9 a.m. Saturday.
“I looked inside and I said, ‘No, it can go, it can go,’ ” he said, tears welling in his eyes. “It makes you face what’s important in your life.”
Times staff writer Ben Poston contributed to this report.
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9:30 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with new information from fire officials.
4:20 p.m.: This article was updated with new information about the number of structures burned.
1:40 p.m.: This article was updated with more comments from evacuees.
1:05 p.m.: This article was updated with new information about evacuations.
Noon: This article has been updated with more comments from officials and evacuees.
10:50 a.m.: This article was updated with new information from fire officials’ news conference.
9:30 a.m.: This article was updated with new information about evacuations and weather conditions.
This article was originally posted at 8:10 a.m.
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