Tick Fire: Some Residents Being Allowed Back, But Others Will Have To Wait
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Some residents were being allowed back into their homes Friday evening after the Tick Fire prompted what one official called the largest evacuation in the Santa Clarita Valley's history.
Firefighters have faced difficult weather conditions as they fight to draw containment lines around the fire, which has burned roughly 4,005 acres and was 10% contained as of 7 p.m.
Repopulation had begun for residents who live in the area between Whites Canyon and Sierra Highway, south of Plum Canyon and north of Soledad Canyon, officials said at a 5 p.m. press conference. Also allowed to return home were residents who lived south of Fire Station 132 at 29310 S. Sand Canyon.
By 6 p.m., officials began repopulating the area along Sierra Highway at Linda Vista West. All other areas under previous evacuation orders were not expected to be allowed back into their homes until at least Saturday morning, when officials planned to reassess the situation.
Some residents were driving around with their belongings in their cars. Karen Rooks had her three cats with her, and had been in the car since 3:00 a.m. Friday.
"I don't think I could take much more," she said. "I don't think I could be here tomorrow."
Another displaced resident, Fabian Ruiz, was in his car with his dog and his guitar.
"Playing guitar... keeps me calm, and it's something to pass the time with," he said.
The fire, named for Tick Canyon Road where it sparked, initially displaced about 50,000 residents, though that number was hovering around 40,000 by Friday.
"This is the largest evacuation that we've had in Santa Clarita," L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Friday.
Fire officials confirmed that six structures have been destroyed and seven have been damaged.
Officials were still concerned by the winds as the evening wore on, though they were expected to be only light to moderate. The aim overnight will be to secure the north end of the fire and keep it from spreading into the Angeles National Forest on the north and south, in preparation for a shift in winds Saturday.
Barger warned residents returning to their homes that hazards can still exist, from damaged utilities to hazardous materials to fire ash. She urged residents to use gloves and wear eye protection and N95 masks.
Anyone returning to damaged or destroyed homes can dial 211 to be connected to someone who can help coordinate recovery services, Barger said.
Barger and other officials also urged residents to heed instructions from sheriff's deputies.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said a strong deputy presence would continue in both the evacuated and repopulated areas to deter anyone seeking to take advantage of residents' absence. Only residents would be allowed entry to repopulated areas.
Earlier in the morning, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in L.A. County, a move aimed to free up state resources to help local agencies battle the fire and assist in recovery efforts.
At 1:30 p.m., the National Weather Service posted that "gusty Santa Ana winds will persist" in L.A. and Ventura Counties throughout the evening.
The fire presents specific challenges because of its location as well.
"One of the differences we're seeing in this fire is, because it impacted that urban interface, there's a lot of fire line, so that length of fire line requires more work to go out into the black areas, into the burn areas and extinguish all those," said Garrett Hazelton, a fire behavior analyst for LACOFD. "It takes a couple days to fully vet and put out all those little ember-producing hot spots."
Los Angeles Unified School officials announced Thursday night that they were closing all schools in the San Fernando Valley "due to air quality and safety concerns." The district had faced criticism during the recent Saddleridge Fire for not acting more quickly to close campuses and then sending students back to smoky, ash-filled classrooms.
The William S. Hart Union High School District in Santa Clarita and Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District also canceled all classes. College of the Canyons announced its two campuses are closed today, though the gym at the Valencia campus remains open as an evacuation center. California Institute of the Arts also closed its campus and canceled all classes and events.
Cal State Northridge's campus will remain "open and operational," university officials said Friday morning.
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The Tick Fire was among several that broke out in California on Thursday, with dry, hot conditions and wind gusts up to 55 mph in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. National Weather Service officials warned conditions would remain dangerous Friday.
On Friday afternoon, a fire weather watch was issued through parts of L.A. and Ventura Counties through Monday.
- Acres burned: About 4,005
- Containment: 10%
- Injuries: None reported
- Structures destroyed: 6
- Structures damaged: 7
- Structures threatened: Approximately 10,000
- Resources deployed: About 1,325 personnel, with 225 engines, sfour helicopters, 14 hand crews and four air tankers
Repopulation has begun for some areas that were under evacuation orders:
- The area between Whites Canyon and Sierra Highway, south of Plum Canyon and north of Soledad Canyon
- The area south of Fire Station 132 at 29310 S. Sand Canyon
- After 6 p.m., the area along Sierra Highway at Linda Vista West
All other areas under previous evacuation orders were not expected to be allowed back into their homes until at least Saturday morning.
Here's the L.A. County evacuation map, which officials say will be kept up-to-date:
- College of the Canyons Gymnasium, 26455 Rockwell Can Rd., Santa Clarita (AT MAXIMUM CAPACITY)
- West Ranch High School, 26255 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita
- Small Animals: Castaic Animal Care Center, 31044 Charlie Cyn Rd., Castaic, 91384
- Large Animals: Wayside, 29230 The Old Road, Castaic, 91384
- Large Animals: Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, 2551 West Avenue H, Lancaster, 93536
- 14 Freeway all southbound lanes and ramps from Escondido Canyon Road to Golden Valley Road, plus northbound offramps to Sand Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road. Caltrans suggests using I-5/SR-138 or I-15/SR-138 as alternate routes between Palmdale/Lancaster and Los Angeles.
- Vasquez Canyon Road
- Sierra Highway between Davenport Road and Sand Canyon Road
- For more, you can check the Caltrans map here
- All schools in the William S. Hart Unified High School District are closed Friday, according to the district. All teachers and staff were being told not to report to work.
- Varsity Foothill League high school football games are all postponed until Saturday at 7:00 p.m. J.V. games have been rescheduled for Monday.
- The three schools in the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District
- College of the Canyons' two campuses
- California Institute of the Arts
- All LAUSD schools in the San Fernando Valley are closed Friday. Details here.
Several L.A. County recreational areas were also closed due to the fire, county officials said:
- Vasquez Rocks Natural Area and Nature Center
- Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center
- Castaic Aquatic Center
- William S. Hart Park
A South Coast Air Quality Management District smoke advisory was extended through at least Saturday morning. Air quality reached unhealthy levels in Santa Clarita Thursday and was expected to reach unhealthy levels for sensitive groups into Friday and Saturday throughout the region, according to the AQMD.
The Ventura County Air Pollution Control District issued an alert of its own, warning of impacts throughout Ventura County. That alert remains in effect through 6 p.m. Sunday.
The fire broke out shortly before 1:30 p.m. in a rural area along the 31600 block of Tick Canyon Road, which is not a public-maintained road. It runs from the Stone Crest tract of homes along Soledad Canyon in the Santa Clarita community of Canyon Country to along some ranches and small residential enclaves along Tick Canyon Road.
To the north is Agua Dulce. This area where the fire started appears to be part of an outage area where Edison pulled the plug -- one of its public safety power shutoffs. It's unclear the timing of the shutoff compared to the start of the Tick Canyon Fire.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
SCENES ON THE GROUND
Depsite the threats from the fire, the day seems eeirily normal in some Santa Clarita neighborhoods. While fire trucks zipped along local roads, people who didn't evacuate were out walking their dogs.
Firefighters were still battling hotspots in neighborhoods, where some homes were still smoldering after being gutted by flames.
Officials said there's a particular hazard for firefighters assigned to the Baker Canyon area because power poles are burning there. And a building supply company that burned yesterday is now considered a hazardous materials site, so firefighters will be working to isolate those materials and keep any fumes or other runoff from spreading.
As the fire jumped the 14 Freeway, it burned through the wooden posts that hold the freeway barriers in place, meaning substantial repairs will have to be made.
Arib Miles had to leave his Santa Clarita home Thursday as flames approached his neighborhood and said the communication about evacuation orders was confusing.
"People were trying to get in the neighborhood and people were trying to get out at the same time," Miles said. "I think the communication kind of broke down after a while."
HOW WE'RE REPORTING ON THIS
Reporters Sharon McNary, Emily Guerin, Emily Dugdale, Robert Garrova and visual journalist Chava Sanchez reported from the area. Digital producers Ryan Fonseca, Jessica Ogilvie and Brian Frank are keeping this story updated. KPCC newscast producers are also working from the studio to confirm details.
For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:
- L.A. County Emergency Information website
- L.A. County Fire Department, Twitter
- L.A. County Sheriff's Department, Twitter
- California Highway Patrol, Twitter
- L.A. County Fire Air Ops, Twitter
- National Weather Service Los Angeles, Twitter
- City of Santa Clarita emergency updates website
- L.A. County Fire website
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UPDATES: This article will be updated frequently throughout the day.
This article was originally published at 4:45 a.m.