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Ranch Fire Prompts Prompts Evacuations In Azusa Canyon Area, Spreads to 2,500 Acres

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Published
The Ranch Fire in Asuza. (Ian Adams/LAist)
This story was last updated at 9:10 p.m. We will bring you more coverage in the morning.
A brush fire near Asuza has spread to more than 3,000 acres tonight, prompting evacuations that began this afternoon.

The Ranch Fire was reported at 2:45 p.m. in the Azusa Canyon area near North San Gabriel Canyon Road and North Ranch Road, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Almost immediately, it was threatening homes.
Residents of Mountain Cove were asked to evacuate immediately, and no traffic is being allowed into the area, according to the Azusa Police Department.
By about 4:30 p.m., the Ranch Fire had grown to about 600 acres but county fire officials at that point said the fire was burning away from the foothill cities and into Angeles National Forest.

Authorities reported the fire had spread to about 3,000 acres by shortly after 8 p.m., pushing further into the forest and away from homes, in steep, rocky terrain. There have not been any injuries reported or damages to structures yet, according to the L.A. County Fire Dept.
Road closures remain.

Firehawk helicopters were being used to assist in the attack, according to L.A. County's Fire Air Ops.



The Ranch Fire was the second to prompt evacuations in L.A. County in as many days, following the Lake Fire, which exploded to roughly 10,000 acres in its first day.
Here's what the scene looked like at about 5:30 p.m.:

EVACUATIONS
  • Mountain Cove community is under evacuation.
EVACUATION SHELTER
  • Azusa Pacific University: 701 E. Foothill Blvd, Azusa, CA
CLOSURES:
  • State Route 39 (northbound) at Sierra Madre Avenue
  • State Route 39 (southbound) at East Fork Road

MORE SOCAL FIRE COVERAGE:

FIRE RESOURCES

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Lake Fire Updates: What We Know So Far As The Wildfire Grows In Lake Hughes

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Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Wednesday in Lake Hughes. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Lake Fire broke out Wednesday afternoon and quickly exploded to more than 10,000 acres within a few hours, forcing hundreds of people in the Lake Hughes area to evacuate.

In an update Thursday morning, fire officials said 10,500 acres have burned and more than 5,400 homes and other structures are threatened. More than 1,050 firefighters are on the scene.

No injuries have been reported, but three structures have been destroyed, according to fire officials. Containment is at 0%.

Firefighers are dealing with "extreme and aggressive fire behavior," officials said, and expect the fire to grow rapidly. One key objective today: keeping the fire "north of Castaic Lake, south of Highway 138, east of Red Rock Mountain, and west of Tule Ridge."

At a press briefing Thursday morning, U.S. Forest Service Chief Robert Garcia said there was "a tremendous firefight to protect lives and property" last night after the flames jumped Pine Canyon Road. Weather conditions early Thursday morning helped out, he said, but noted it'll be a rough battle ahead:

"It will be a major fire for several days. The current weather that we started with this morning has helped buy us some time to get some relief crews out there and start developing some further control anchor points in numerous points along this fire."

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said crews will be working all day to increase containment as authorities brace for temperatures to climb through the weekend and into next week.

"It's going to be a hot, dry summer, and it's going be a very, very hot, dry weekend," he said.

The fire ignited in an area that officials said hadn't burned since 1968. Even though there were minimal winds, a combination of the steep canyons and dry brush turned it into what one official called "a recipe for rapid fire growth."

COVID-19 was a complicating factor for those forced to evacuate. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, traditional shelter space cannot be set up, so the designated shelters were really just parking lots where people could remain in their cars.

The fire burned over a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, according to this fire map, and the north end of the fire blew through Pine Canyon Road.

A firefighting helicopter performs a water drop over the Lake Fire on Wednesday in Lake Hughes. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 10,500 acres
  • Containment: 0%
  • Structures threatened: 5,420
  • Structures destroyed: 3
  • Resources deployed: 1,059 firefighters

MANDATORY EVACUATIONS

  • Lake Hughes Road west of Pine Canyon and north of Dry Gulch Road
  • Everything east of Ridge Route Road
  • Everything west of Lake Hughes Road and Fire Station 78
  • Everything north of Pine Canyon and Ridge Route Road
  • Everything south of Highway 138

EVACUATION CENTERS

For people (due to public health guidelines, evacuees must remain in their cars):

  • Highland High School | 39055 25th St., West Palmdale
  • Castaic Sports Complex | 31230 Castaic Road

For animals:

  • Castaic Animal Care Center (31044 Charlie Canyon Rd)
  • Lancaster Animal Care Center (5210 W. Avenue I)
  • Palmdale Animal Care Center (38550 Sierra Highway)
  • Antelope Valley Fairgrounds - large animals only (2551 W. Avenue H in Lancaster)

ROAD CLOSURES

  • San Francisquito Canyon Road from Slater Lane to Spunky Canyon
  • Lake Hughes Road from Ridge Route Road to Pine Canyon
  • 3 Points Road from Highway 138 to Pine Canyon
  • Old Ridge Route from the 138 to Pine Canyon

WEATHER CONDITIONS

Fire officials said temperatures in the area would be in the 90s and possibly triple digits today, with low humidity. As of Aug. 1, the Angeles National Forest had increased the fire threat from "very high" to "extreme." Parts of the area on fire had not burned since 1968, according to officials.

THE BACKGROUND

The fire was first reported about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday near Pine Canyon. Fire officials said the fire grew to more than 100 acres in the first few minutes after it ignited. No cause had yet been determined.

SCENES OF THE FIRE

Within an hour of the fire's start, a pyrocumulus cloud had formed, climbing high into the sky. It made smoke visible as far as Santa Cruz Island, roughly 100 miles away.

The tall, intimidating clouds build as extreme heat from the fire causes air to rise, which then cools and condenses as it climbs higher into the atmosphere. That smoke can then spread across hundreds, if not thousands of miles. In some instances thunderstorms can form, which can mean lightning — which can mean even more fires.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

Science reporter Jacob Margolis is reporting on the fire and our infrastructure reporter Sharon McNary is also contributing context about fires. LAist's Mike Roe and Ryan Fonseca are anchoring digital coverage. This is a developing story. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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

We'll update this story as we learn more.

MORE ON THIS YEAR'S WILDFIRE SEASON:

FIRE RESOURCES

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Sheriff Moves To Fire Or Suspend 26 Employees Related To 2018 Brawl

Updated
Published
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. (Kyle Grillot for LAist)

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced today he’s moving to suspend or terminate 26 employees after an investigation into a deputy-on-deputy melee at an off-duty party in 2018.

“We are holding our employees accountable to the rule of law, and we will not tolerate any group of employees who mistreats any member of the community or another member of the department,” he told a news conference.

The 2018 attack was allegedly carried out by members of the “Banditos” deputy clique, based at the East L.A. patrol station. A lawsuit filed last year by several East L.A. deputies claimed Banditos members attacked fellow deputies during the brawl, leaving two unconscious and sending them to the hospital.

The department’s investigation found “several policy violations, from conduct toward others, general behavior, failure to report the incident to supervisors, from several parties,” said Commander April Tardy, a commander at the central patrol division.

The sheriff said he can’t name names or break down how many officers the department seeks to fire or suspend, because they have a right to privacy as they appeal their discipline.

“I am absolutely sickened by the mere allegation of any deputy hiding behind a badge to hurt anyone,” said Chief Matthew Burson, head of the department’s professional standards division.

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the union that represents deputies, said in a statement that its members involved in the case "are complainants, witnesses, and now, accused." The union "does not condone unprofessional conduct," it said, while noting that its priority is ensuring a fair process for all concerned.

Burson said the department has asked the FBI to assist its investigation of a deputy's recent allegations about an “Executioners” deputy clique at the Compton station. At the same time, he said, “our intent is to examine the department in its entirety.”

Compton Mayor Aja Brown echoed the Compton deputy's allegations last week, claiming deputies' behavior has left her community "terrorized."

As it did in East L.A., the department is transferring employees from the Compton station, “to protect not only the employees involved, but those witnesses who may come forward and feel comfortable doing so,” said Tardy.

Inspector General Max Huntsman said his office and the Civilian Oversight Commission haven’t been allowed to monitor the Compton inquiry.

“All these bodies designed to have a check and balance on the law enforcement, they’re still shutting them out and keeping what they’re doing secret,” he said.

Huntsman has long battled with Villanueva over the sheriff’s reluctance to share as much information as the inspector general wants.

The department has faced allegations of out-of-control deputy cliques for decades.

While he previously dismissed cliques' bad behavior as “hazing run amok,” Villanueva now prohibits deputies from joining groups that violate the law or department policy.

“I’m adopting a zero tolerance policy,” he said today. “If you form a group, you mistreat people, yes, we will seek to make sure you’re no longer a member of the department."

Chief Burson said he would update the Civilian Oversight Commission on Friday.

MORE COVERAGE OF CLIQUES

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We're Mapping Who's Applying For School Reopening Waivers

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(Screenshot of LAUSD video)

It's back-to-school time in California, but for many local students, that doesn't mean it's time to go back to campus just yet.

Southern California counties are on the state's COVID-19 watchlist, which means schools have to conduct all classes online until their county is off the list for at least two weeks.

There's one exception to this, though: a waiver for elementary schools with approved reopening plans.

The process is a bit complex (as we explain here), but as part of it, schools and districts are required to reach out to teachers and staff, parents, and community organizations to see what they think of their reopening plans.

That's where you come in.

Has your school or district indicated it will be applying for one of these reopening waivers? If so, what do you think of the process and the plan? If not, what do you think of that?

You can let us know by emailing me, LAist reporter Carla Javier. We may use your insights as we continue to report on these waivers.

READ THE FULL STORY:

READ MORE ABOUT THESE WAIVERS:

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Water Watchdogs Win Ruling On Treated Water Lost To The Ocean

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Published
The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant next to Dockweiler State Beach. (Don Searles)

Once the wastewater from showers and toilets is cleaned, a lot of it flows to the ocean. Much of what flows in the L.A. River to the Pacific is water discharged by four local wastewater treatment plants -- about 270 million gallons a day.

An environmental group called that wasteful, and sued state regulators for issuing a permit that lets these water discharges continue. In a ruling this week, a Superior Court judge said a state water quality board failed to analyze the reasonableness of letting the treated water go to the ocean.

The group, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, says the ruling should send the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board back to re-analyze wastewater discharge permits issued to plants operated by the cities of Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale.

The group sued in 2017 over a continuation of the permits, saying the board should have looked at other ways of using the water, potentially recycling it for drinking water -- a move that can reduce the amount of costly water imported to the region.

A spokeswoman for the water quality board said officials would not comment on the litigation, and had not yet decided whether to file an appeal.

L.A. Sanitation, which operates three of the plants, says the wastewater is being recycled because it can be used for landscaping and industrial purposes, freeing up drinking water supplies, so it’s not really wasted.

GO DEEPER:

Morning Briefing: 90 Years Ago, A Group Of Black Stunt Pilots Thrilled LA

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William J. Powell's U.S. Army American Expeditionary Force (AEF) Identity Card, circa 1918. He fought in WWI in the 365th Infantry. US Army/Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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A little L.A. history for you on this Thursday morning: In 1931, East Montebello Gardens played host to one of the world’s first air shows featuring exclusively Black pilots.

LAist contributor Hadley Meares explains that the Colored Air Circus was organized by pilot and aviation educator William J. Powell, and included seven aviators, known as the Blackbirds, who performed for a crowd of at least 10,000. According to a Los Angeles Times article, the show made for “an afternoon of thrills," including sharp mid-air dips and dives, holding a V formation, and culminating in several parachute jumps.

Powell went on to become a champion of the aviation industry, insofar as the opportunities it offered to the Black population. In his autobiographical novel, Powell wrote:

"There is before our eyes an infant industry that someday bids fair to become a bigger giant than any. We have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor, an opportunity to help develop this industry — we have an opportunity to grow with this industry, an opportunity to become producers — what shall we do?"

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, August 13

We'll have more from Jacob Margolis and others on the fast-moving Lake Fire that exploded to more than 10,000 acres near Lake Hughes within hours of igniting yesterday afternoon.

Attend an online B-Boy summit, catch screenings of Selena and Purple Rain, create your most Instagrammable dish for a summer potluck, and more. Christine N. Ziemba has this week’s best events.

An advocacy organization that tries to keep river and ocean water clean says it’s won a lawsuit against L.A., Glendale and Burbank over the amount of treated wastewater that was being dumped into the ocean rather than recycled. Sharon McNary has the story.

Carla Javier maps out which schools have applied for reopening waivers in Orange County. You can see which district, charter, and private schools have applied, and what their application status is.

Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.


The Past 24 Hours In LA

Lake Fire: It started about 3:30 p.m. and within minutes was at 100 acres. By sundown the fire — which ignited an area that hasn't burned since 1968 — was at 10,000 acres and had forced people from about 100 homes. A top L.A. County fire official warned: "Keep in mind this is a major fire ...we will be out here for days to come."

Policing The Police: Los Angeles police swarmed the home of Black Lives Matter-L.A. co-founder Melina Abdullah in what appeared to be a fake call meant to draw out armed officers. The L.A. Sheriff's Department says there's no video of a deputy's fatal shooting of 18-year-old Andres Guardado because detectives had removed the digital recorder from surveillance cameras to investigate a prior shooting on the Gardena property.

Coronavirus Updates: We are "back to slowing the spread of coronavirus," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s director of public health, but we have to stay vigilant. Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the number of new coronavirus cases in the state is still too high, but encouraging, and that the state is turning the corner on the pandemic.

L.A. History: On December 6, 1931, thousands of Angelenos jammed the field of the Los Angeles Eastside Airport for the Colored Air Circus, one of the first airshows in the world piloted entirely by Black aviators.

Shifting Plans: Southern California Edison customers in fire-prone areas should see fewer public safety power shut-offs in the coming months. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s top homelessness advisor plans to resign from her position by the end of the month.


Photo Of The Day

Travelers head to their gates at LAX, which is usually bustling with people and long lines.

(Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

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This post has been updated to reflect changes in what's coming up for today.


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