Saddleridge Fire: Firefighters Continue Containment Efforts After Evacuations Lifted And Strong Winds Subside

A firefighting helicopter works the Saddleridge Fire on October 12, 2019 in Sylmar, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NOTE: This story is no longer being updated. Go here for the latest information on the Saddleridge Fire.

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Firefighters continued working to contain the Saddleridge Fire as it burned into its fourth day in the hills between the San Fernando and the Santa Clarita valleys Sunday. All evacuations related to the fire have been lifted and evacuation centers were closed.

The fire has scorched an estimated 7,965 acres and was 42% contained as of the latest official report.

"Tonight, firefighters will take advantage of lower wind speeds, increasing humidity and decreased temperatures. This weather will greatly enhance firefighters' ability to mop up remaining hot spots," LAFD shared in an incident update.

On Sunday, the uncontained portions of the fire were burning into national forest area toward the northwest of the fire footprint. The portions adjacent to homes were contained, according to fire officials.

WHAT WE KNOW AS OF SUNDAY EVENING

  • Acreage: 7,965 acres
  • Containment: 42%
  • Mandatory evacuations: All evacuations have been lifted
  • Structures destroyed: 23
  • Structures damaged: 17
  • Resources deployed: 1,000 personnel from Los Angeles' city and county fire departments, along with crews from CalFire
  • Air quality: Smoke advisory issued for people with "sensitive health conditions" through Monday

One "civilian male" went into cardiac arrest Thursday night and died at a local hospital, while three firefighters have been treated for minor injuries, authorities said.

WEATHER CONDITIONS

The strong Santa Ana winds that drove the rapid growth of the fire Thursday and Friday have subsided, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Saturday evening. Authorities expect the cooler temperatures and relative rise in humidity to aid in the fight to improve and expand containment lines.

"However, challenges could arise should the wind shift and align with terrain and unburnt fuels," the L.A. County Fire Department said in a Sunday update. "Existing containment lines that are subjected to wind shifts will be monitored closely by frontline firefighters and operational leadership to ensure expected fire behavior."

Firefighters are also working to actively patrol and mop up hot spots.

HOW IT STARTED

The X marks the spot where the Saddleridge Fire began (Sharon McNary/ LAist)

The fire started about 9 p.m. Thursday near Yarnell Street and north of the 210 Freeway in Sylmar and quickly spread west, jumping the 5 Freeway and burning into Granada Hills and Porter Ranch.

The fire broke out in red-flag conditions along with scores of other fires statewide. L.A. authorities put the city on tactical alert to respond to the blaze. A command post for the fire has been at Hansen Dam.

At one point, mandatory evacuations affected more than 20,000 homes and 100,000 people.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an emergency declaration on Friday, the first step to securing extra resources from county and state agencies.

THE CAUSE

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

LAFD's Ralph Terrazas noted at a news conference Friday that they were investigating media reports that a witness saw the fire start at the base of an electrical tower behind his home. Robert Delgado told ABC7 that he noticed the fire at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

MANDATORY EVACUATIONS

LAFD lifted all evacuation orders related to the fire on Saturday evening.

Couretsy LAFD

Still, local authorities and politicians urged residents to be proactive by paying close attention to news reports and signing up for alerts through the city.

By texting "READY" to 888-777, residents will be registered with NotifyLA.org, and receive notification of evacuations in their area.

Part of the fire is burning in a Cal Fire "very high fire hazard severity zone." The designation is important because, since 2008, all homes built in these zones have had to meet strict building codes designed to prevent them from catching on fire. They must have fire resistant roofs and siding; fine mesh screen on attic vents to keep embers out; decks and patios made of non-flammable material, and heat-resistant windows.

You can search and see if your house is in a VHFHSZ.

A home stands destroyed by the Saddleridge Fire on October 12, 2019 in Porter Ranch, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

EVACUATION CENTERS

As residents started heading home, the Red Cross started closing several of the shelters that had been open. By 2:15 p.m. Sunday, all shelters had shuttered.

POWER AND GAS

SoCalGas officials said personnel at their gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon had been evacuated by fire authorities. In an email responding to questions, they said multiple fire engines and firefighters from the city and county responded to fight the fire "in and around the Aliso Canyon facility."

They said they were unaware of any damage to the facility and added that they maintain "a detailed and systematic brush clearing program around our facilities to minimize the chances of a brush fire affecting storage wellheads."

The facility was the site of the largest sustained gas leak in U.S. history in 2015, putting more than 100,000 metric tons of methane and other chemicals into the air.

As of Sunday evening, Southern California Edison said about 4 customers in Santa Clarita continued to have their power shut off. At one point, more than 20,000 customers had their power shutoff.

Firefighters gather by an area burned by the Saddleridge Fire on October 12, 2019 in Porter Ranch, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

ROAD CLOSURES

All freeways, connectors and truck routes in the area were reopened late Saturday night, according to Caltrans.

SCHOOL CLOSURES

All schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District were expected to resume classes on Monday.

AIR QUALITY

A smoke advisory for portions of the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys and the western San Gabriel Mountains has been extended through Monday morning, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. During the advisory period, the air quality could remain unhealthy for sensitive groups.

"A wind shift expected in the early morning hours on Monday may transport any remaining smoke towards the south and back into the San Fernando Valley," according to a smoke advisory by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

AQMD has advised anyone who smells smoke to limit their exposure by remaining indoors with windows and doors closed and avoid physical activity.

We've got more on the air quality and how you can stay safe here.

And you can see AQMD's current air quality map here.

HOW WE'RE REPORTING ON THIS

Reporter Sharon McNary was on the ground near the scene of the fire today. Our KPCC newscast producers made calls. Digital producer Brian Frank kept the story updated.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:

FIRE RESOURCES


UPDATES: This article will be updated throughout the day. Check back later to see the latest.

This article was originally published at 7:13 a.m.