Erratic winds are being blamed for fueling the nearly 20,000-acre Powerhouse fire overnight that forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes in the Lake Hughes area, with at least five homes destroyed.
Residents of Lake Elizabeth and the Green Valley areas were also evacuated as the fire continued to burn out of control, officials said. The fire is only 20% contained.
Record-breaking heat, low humidity and dry conditions made it more difficult Saturday for the nearly 1,000 firefighters battling the blaze, which tripled in size overnight as winds picked up. Water-dropping helicopters worked late into the night to protect homes.
About 19,500 acres has burned so far, fire officials told KTLA-Channel 5.
Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Keith Mora said the destroyed homes were north of Elizabeth Lake Road. Mora said 975 firefighters and other personnel were assigned to the blaze, which had already caused three minor injuries to firefighters.
A Red Cross evacuation center was set up at the Marie Kerr Park recreation center at 2723-A Rancho Vista Blvd., Palmdale. An evacuation site for large animals was set up at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds at 2551 West Ave. H in Lancaster.
Temperatures in the fire zone were topping 100 degrees, with relative humidity in the single digits. “It’s going to be very hot and dry with not a whole lot of wind,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Sukup in Oxnard.
Beginning Sunday, conditions were expected to improve, Sukup said. “Relative humidity should be increasing as the marine layer returns,” he said. Sunday’s highs in the fire zone are forecast to be in the upper 80s and low 90s, with about 20% to 30% relative humidity.
The flames are chewing through dried-out brush and chaparral in the steep, rugged terrain not far from Castaic Lake.
In addition to the firefighters, 10 fixed-wing aircraft and eight air tankers were battling the blaze, which broke out shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday near a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power station in San Francisquito Canyon near Drinkwater Reservoir, officials said. The cause of the fire is unknown.