Wildfires across California continue to grow: ‘We have very active burn conditions’
The remains of a structure and boats scorched by the Whittier fire sit along State Route 154 in the Los Padres National Forest near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The Whittier fire burns toward State Route 154 on Sunday in the Los Padres National Forest near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Hundreds of people seek relief from the hot weather in the surf Sunday along the Santa Monica Pier.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Hundreds of people seek relief from the hot weather Sunday near the Santa Monica Pier.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A young girl tries to outrun the hot sand near Arlington West Santa Monica memorial on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Hazmat workers inspect a storm drain after a Saturday night’s explosion at a Department of Water and Power station in Northridge. Thousands of gallons of mineral oil, a coolant, were sent down drains as firefighters used water to douse a burning transformer.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A man wipes his face in front of his home on Logan Street in Los Angeles.(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
A woman shields herself from the hot sun in 91 degree weather in Chinatown.(Christina House / For The Times)
Jacob Martinez, 8, of Anaheim, waits for the water to turn on after a brief break to cool off in the spray pool at Lemon Park in Fullerton,(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
The Whittier Fire burns on the north side of the Santa Inez Mountains near Goleta.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
A hot spot burns ahead of the Alamo fire near Santa Maria on Saturday, July 8, 2017.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Firefighters look on as a helicopter drops water on the Alamo fire near Santa Maria on Saturday, July 8, 2017.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A firefighter maneuvers his vehicle down a private road as the Alamo fire burns near Santa Maria on Saturday, July 8, 2017.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Johnny Lewis, left, and his friend of over 50 years Earl Jackson, right, find refuge in the shade of an abadoned restaurant on Vermont and 54th in Los Angeles on Friday, during the region’s latest heat wave.(Christina House / For The Times)
People brave record 110-degree temperature Friday while walking to work in West Hills in the San Fernando Valley.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
A visitor to Angels Gate Park in San Pedro watches the setting sun against a fiery sky at the end of a hot day in Southern California.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Melissa Garcia, 6, cools off in the Reseda Park pool in the San Fernando Valley on Friday afternoon.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Maricruz Garista, 17, cools off during a break from carp fishing with relatives at the Los Angeles River.(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
People cool off in the spray pool at Lemon Park in Fullerton.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
The crowd waits for the water to return after a brief break in the spray pool at Fullerton’s Lemon Park.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Kids cool off in the spray pool at Fullerton’s Lemon Park.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A woman shields herself from the hot sun in 91 degree weather in Chinatown.(Christina House / For the Times)
In Chinatown, pedestrians use umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun in 91 degree weather on Friday.(Christina House / For the Times)
Jocelyn Caravantes, 3, left, and her brother Dean, 6, play in their Boyle Heights pool on a hot afternoon while their mother, Evelyn, watches from a chair in the shade.(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Swimmers dive from a pier at Kings Beach in Lake Tahoe, where temperature are expected in the mid 80’s today.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Darin Yoon, 12, endures the late afternoon sun as he sits with his father, John, at Dodger Stadium to watch the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks game.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Daniel Garcia rides around the Rose Bowl Loop Trail on a hot day in the Southland with temperatures expected to reach triple digits on Friday.(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Anthony Garcia, 7, cools off at the splash pad at Rio de Los Angeles State Park in Los Angeles.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Firefighters extinguish a brush fire at Buena Vista Meadow in Elysian Park in Los Angeles.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Maribel Vasquez cleans reserved level seats in the hot afternoon sunshine hours before the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks game at Dodger Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A concertgoer prepares his spot for a free concert at Eastgate Park in Garden Grove.(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Josh Peralta plays in water splashing in a fountain in Cathedral City, where temperature reached 118 degrees.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Tina Robinson, left, and Eric Johns of Chicago beat the heat by walking under a cool mist and sipping colds drink in Palm Springs.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Moises Lopez takes a water break from landscaping a San Gabriel Mission school to stay hydrated.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Lincoln watches over pet owner Michelle Virney while she takes a nap to cool off in Vincent Lugo Park in San Gabriel.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Surfers set a mark recognized by the Guinness World Records for the largest paddle-out on International Surfing Day.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Surfers line up before attempting to set a mark recognized by the Guinness World Records for the largest paddle-out, forming the Surfing Circle of Honor on International Surfing Day.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Umbrellas are required equipment while walking around Vincent Lugo Park as temperatures rise during the latest heat wave.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
To beat the heat, Lily Lin leads an early morning Tai Chi class at Vincent Lugo Park in San Gabriel.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
From left, Aaron Stevens, 11, Alida Stevens, 4, and Brian Botts, 9, wave down customers as they sale refreshments on a hot summer day in Van Nuys. “We want to help people hydrate while helping ourselves,” Aaron Stevens said.(Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)
Brian Botts, left, and Aaron Stevens, right, prepare a cup of Kool-Aid for Carlos Zepeda in Van Nuys.(Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)
Tawny Auer joins her sons Shane, left, and Carter to cool off in a pool at the aquatic center in Palm Desert, where temperature reached 115 degrees.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Adrian Rosales cools off at the spray pool at Lemon Park in Fullerton.(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )
Children splash in water from the spray pool at Lemon Park in Fullerton.(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )
Boaters relax on Big Bear Lake as a giant plume from the Holcomb fire burns nearby in rugged terrain in the San Bernardino National Forest.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Luigi, a thirsty pit bull, cools down at Genesee Avenue Park in Los Angeles.(Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)
Wildfires continued to rage across several California counties Sunday as record-breaking heat in some areas gave way to cooler temperatures.
The Alamo fire, near Highway 166 in northern Santa Barbara County, has grown to more than 23,000 acres near the San Luis Obispo County line, Cal Fire said Sunday. At least 200 people threatened by the blaze were evacuated from a remote area east of Santa Maria.
The Whittier fire near Lake Cachuma, about 35 miles south, has scorched about 7,800 acres, according to officials with Los Padres National Forest.
In Butte County, north of Sacramento, the Wall fire has burned 4,400 acres and destroyed 10 structures, while threatening hundreds more, according to Cal Fire. Four injuries have been reported.
Evacuation orders remain in effect throughout the area, officials said. The fire, which started Friday, is 17% contained.
The Winter fire in nearby Yolo County has burned 1,800 acres and is 25% contained, officials said. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in some areas.
In Santa Barbara County, water-dropping helicopters and retardant-dropping air tankers aided some 1,000 firefighters from across the state who were scrambling to contain the Alamo fire, the largest active fire in the state. Columns of smoke could be seen from miles away as the fire outraced efforts to contain it, at one point growing by more than 3,000 acres over a four-hour period Friday.
“Low humidity, high heat and the winds are right — and there’s just a lot of stuff to burn,” said Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Gina DePinto. She said firefighters’ main focus Saturday was to secure the south and east sides of the blaze. If winds from the northeast shift toward the northwest, as expected, homes could burn, she said.
If the Alamo fire crosses Tepusquet Canyon, it could push farther east into an area of the Los Padres National Forest that burned in 2009, which might help slow the fire because the brush and the trees are relatively young, officials said.
But between the high temperatures and changing winds, Cal Fire spokesman Chris Elms said, the fire fight will be tough regardless of the fuel.
“It’s off to the races,” Elms said of the fire’s growth.
The Alamo fire was 10% contained as of Sunday morning, officials said.
The fire near Lake Cachuma, called the Whittier fire, was burning on both sides of Highway 154 and initially left some 80 campers trapped at the Circle V Ranch Camp. But U.S. Forest Service firefighters reached the group, which was sheltering in place, said Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
The fire, which started about 2 p.m. Saturday, lies in an area filled with oaks, Chamise brush, Manzanita shrubs and ceanothus plants that haven’t burned since 1955, said Gary Helming, the battalion chief for the U.S. Forest Service in Los Padres National Forest.
“The brush is tall and thick,” he said. “We have very active burn conditions. We are seeing rapid and large growth.”
By Saturday evening, the Whittier fire had reached the top of the Santa Ynez mountain range and flames could be seen from Goleta, north of Santa Barbara. The fire, which is 5% contained, has burned 20 structures on both sides of Highway 154, officials said.
Sarah Gustafson, who moved from Washington to California seven months ago, lives in the shadow of the Santa Ynez Mountains down a winding road between Lake Cachuma and San Marcos Pass off Highway 154.
She said she was getting her tires changed on the Santa Barbara side of the mountains Saturday when she saw a pillar of smoke rise on the other side of the mountain.
Gustafson, who works at a veterinary hospital, panicked: Her six beloved cats were trapped at home.
“It was my worst-case scenario,” she said. “I wasn’t home, I wasn’t able to get there and I had to evacuate.”
Once her tires were secure she navigated around road closures and made her way over the mountain range along Old San Marcos Road as the fire exploded from 300 to more than 3,000 acres along a stretch of forest that fire officials said had not burned since 1955.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “The sky was orange and black, you could see flames up on the ridge. When I got home it was smokey with ash.”
The fire was still a ways away and she managed to cram her six cats — Severus, Malfoy, Mama, Smee, Nibbles, and her kitten Gidget — into cat containers then into a Toyota Solara for the race back to Santa Barbara.
She spent the night in the parking lot of the Red Cross shelter set up at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara with her cats, a portable DVD player and Season 6 of “The Simpsons” to keep her company.
It was her first fire.
“It all happened in a matter of hours,” she said.
Nearby in the parking lot, Jerome and Caroline Clemenceau, who are from the western Vendee region of France, sipped coffee and ate cereal with their two daughters in their rented recreational vehicle.
The married couple, both 42, had spent five months traveling the United States from the Gulf Coast in Florida and Louisiana to Arches National Park in Utah and Mesa Verde National Park.
They wrapped things up in California, taking in Yosemite before ending their trip camping along the Santa Ynez River.
They spent the day sightseeing in Santa Barbara when a huge cloud of smoke came up over the mountain.
“We have never seen that kind of thing before,” Jerome said.
“There was ash falling on our car, the sun was red -- suddenly we couldn’t see anything. It was strange,” his wife said. “It was very impressive.”
Fernando Salazar, a biologist from Colombia, and his daughter Veronica Salazar, who recently graduated from MIT, didn’t know what to make of the smoke plume at first.
“We thought it was smog,” he said.
The pair darted up the hill from Santa Barbara in their rental car to the Los Prietos campground in Los Padres National Forest to retrieve their camping gear.
“It was an inferno,” Salazar said. “The sky was beautiful, the sun was red.”
The pair had seen Yellowstone, Yosemite and points in between during their road trip.
“And we end it with a fire,” he said.
Farther south, downtown Los Angeles hit a record high of 98 degrees Saturday, beating out the 131-year-old record of 95 degrees set in 1886, according to the National Weather Service.
Record-high temperatures were also recorded in Long Beach, 96 degrees, and Burbank, 105, while Palmdale tied its record of 110. Woodland Hills also reported a temperature of 110.
The San Fernando Valley was especially hard hit by triple-digit temperatures. By 3 p.m., the mercury registered 107 degrees at Lake Balboa, near Encino.
The heat, humidity and beating sun gave park visitors plenty to complain about.
“Man, it’s brutal out here,” said a shirtless man carrying a cooler back to his truck.
Meanwhile, an explosion at a power plant in the San Fernando Valley caused a fire that burned for hours Saturday, knocked out traffic lights, stranded people in elevators and left about 140,000 customers without power, officials said.
The power outages hit businesses and residents in Northridge, Winnetka, Reseda, Lake Balboa, Tarzana, North Hills, Granada Hills, Chatsworth, West Hills, Canoga Park and Woodland Hills, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. It was unknown when power would be restored.
Residents of an apartment complex near the DWP plant on Parthenia Street in Northridge reported hearing a loud explosion at the plant just before 7 p.m., and firefighters arrived to find a gigantic container of mineral oil – used as a cooling agent for electrical equipment – on fire, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.
Humphrey said firefighters had controlled the blaze by 8:30 p.m. and were able to extinguish the flames by 9 p.m. “These were fierce flames, with smoke towering more than 300 feet into the sky,” Humphrey said.
No one was injured. He said mechanical failure related to cooling equipment might have caused the explosion, though the investigation was still young.
Power was fully restored to all DWP customers Sunday morning.
Temperatures in Los Angeles should begin cooling on Sunday by as much as 5 to 10 degrees in some areas, with the trend continuing over the next few days, said Hall, the meteorologist. The coast is expected to cool to the mid-70s and downtown to the mid-80s during the same period, he said.
11:35 a.m.: July 9: This story was updated with new information about Whittier and Winter fires.
11:05 a.m., July 9: This story was updated with new information about a Butte County fire.
9:25 a.m., July 9: This story was updated with new information about Whittier fire and DWP power outage.
7:30 a.m., July 9: This story updated with new burn numbers.
9:40 p.m., July 8: This article was updated with new information about DWP fire in Northridge.
This article was originally posted at 8:50 p.m.
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