Destructive, Massive Sand Fire Described As 'Almost Like Lava'
The Sand Fire continues to rage on in the Santa Clarita Valley, burning more than 33,000 acres, killing at least one person and countless animals, and destroying at least 18 homes and threatening hundreds more. So far 10,000 homes have been evacuated, affecting roughly 20,000 people.
The fire has been rapidly spreading all weekend, doubling in size overnight on Saturday in part due to scorching, dry temperatures. And it doesn't look like it'll be over anytime soon; as of Monday morning, containment is still at 10%. While weather conditions will slightly improve today, with temperatures dropping a couple of degrees, officials said this morning that winds could reach 30 mph this afternoon, which could possibly spur on the fire.
The nature of the Sand Fire has prompted warranted hyperbole from officials and fire experts. L.A. County Sheriff's Capt. Roosevelt Johnson told the L.A. Times, "There's nothing normal about this fire." John Tripp, incident commander with the LAFD told ABC-7, "That fire came through like a freight train...We've never seen a fire come into Sand Canyon like that and neither have those residents."
"All the experience we've had with fires is out the window," Tripp continued.
Chris Pease, who lost her home of 17 years in the blaze, along with her beloved horse Abby, three pygmy goats, and several birds, described the terror in seeing the fire approach, saying, "The flames were leaping up in some areas 50 feet in the air, 100 feet in the air. It was coming running down the hill — just a big, red glow, almost like lava. It looked like lava."
Officials also said that those who wait to evacuate until the last minute, or attempt to return home before being told it's safe to do so, only pose a greater threat for firefighters. California Highway Patrol Sgt. Kevin Pack told ABC-7 that residents who were trying to return to their homes "nearly ran over officers and deputies."
It's not just desperate residents who are hindering firefighting efforts. The U.S. Forest Service said that drones are interfering with firefighters ability to do their job, too; water drops can be called off if "unmanned aircraft" is seen nearby.
According to weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Erdman, it will remain windy through the end of the week...and that there's a possibility of thunderstorms, "which could not only start new fires via lightning without rain but could also produce outflow winds that could quickly shift an ongoing fire. Great.
Tripp said he worries that the intensity of this fire, along with the other fires earlier this year in Calabasas, Duarte and Stevenson Ranch, is a bad sign of what's to come for the rest of fire season.
"We are in July," he told the Times. "We've never had four major fires within six weeks in June and July."
Maybe it really is the worst fire season ever?
Here's more information on evacuation centers and animal shelters: