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California

Stevenson Ranch residents to be allowed to return home, but blaze still burning

About 2,000 residents evacuated from the Stevenson Ranch area of the Santa Clarita Valley to escape a brush fire were allowed to return home Saturday evening as firefighters made progress in controlling the blaze, authorities said.

Residents with identification were allowed to begin heading home from 9:30 p.m., said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Roland Sprewell.

“We’re still trying to get containment, but we feel that we have sufficient control over those areas nearest the homes to go and repopulate areas,” he said.

The blaze scorched at least  800 acres. About 700 homes were evacuated, but no structures were burned. The county fire agency said that 15% of the Sage fire was contained by 9:30 p.m.

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About 1,200 firefighters — assisted by four helicopters dropping flame retardant — battled the blaze and worked to create a barrier around homes that were threatened, said Inspector Gustavo Medina of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Stevenson Ranch fire
Map of brush fire in the Stevenson Ranch area.
(Paul Duginski)

The fire was reported shortly after noon. Television news outlets reported that the blaze was started by a car that had gone over an embankment, but Sprewell said he could not confirm the exact cause, which was still under investigation.

County fire officials reported that three firefighters, including two inmates battling the blaze, suffered minor injuries.

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Temperatures in the area registered 88 degrees at 3 p.m., with wind gusts of about 25 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Firefighters planned to continue working overnight to control the blaze. Temperatures were expected to drop to around 60 in the Santa Clarita Valley area overnight before climbing into the high 80s on Sunday, with winds of 10 to 20 mph, the service said.

“We are having to battle with Mother Nature,” Medina said. “The winds are blowing and the terrain is challenging. The firefighters are in dense, heavy brush, and after a five-year drought, all this vegetation is prime and ready to burn.”

Fire officials said the focus on Saturday was on containment. A DC-10 aircraft helped during the day by dropping retardant near the fire’s perimeter, Sprewell said.

“We try get a line around it and keep it away from homes,” he said. “There is some pretty tough terrain up in there that firefighters can’t get up to -- that’s why you’ve seen so many aerial efforts.”

Smoke could be seen drifting over Interstate 5, but the fire did not force its closure.

Sheriff’s officials asked residents near the area to remain vigilant and prepare in case they needed to be evacuated. Residents were reminded to bring medications, important documents and emergency supplies in case evacuees have to stay away from their homes for a prolonged period.

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Times staff writer Jack Leonard contributed to this report.

ben.poston@latimes.com

For more Southern California news, follow me on Twitter: @bposton


UPDATES:

10:36 p.m.: This story was updated with some minor rewriting.

9:33 p.m.: This story was updated to add that evacuees are expected to be allowed to return home starting this evening.

8:22 p.m.: This story was updated with new information about the fire and evacuations.

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7:19 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information about acres burned and percentage of the fire contained.

6:39 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information about evacuations and injuries to firefighters.

5:50 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information about acres burned, evacuations and a quote from a fire official.

5:11 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information about evacuations and weather conditions.

4:14 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information about areas being evacuated.

3:32 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information about the number of acres burned.

2:56 p.m.: This story was updated with new information about evacuations. 

1:55 p.m.: This story has been updated with new details about evacuations and the number of acres burned.

This article was originally published at 1:02 p.m.


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