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50,000 Evacuated, Homes Burned In The Tick Fire Near Agua Dulce

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The Tick Fire broke out Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (Courtesy of LA County Fire Air Ops)
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On a day of extremely dangerous fire conditions throughout the state, a fast-moving brush fire broke out near Agua Dulce, prompting evacuation orders for about 50,000 people in nearby canyon communities.

Television footage captured homes and structures on fire in the area of the Tick Fire, named for Tick Canyon Road where it sparked. The cause of the fire was not yet determined.


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Residents of Canyon Country described conditions that quickly changed from smoke in the air to a wall of flames heading toward their homes. The Tick Fire was among many 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.

"With the winds picking up this is going to be first and foremost getting perimeter control," L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said at an evening news conference. She added "we aren't going to let our guard down, we know the red flag warning is in effect until 10 p.m. Friday"

Barger said at least six homes had burned in the fire and that a more accurate count could come tomorrow after crews have been able to do a damage assessment.

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L.A. County Fire Chief Darul Osby cautioned that hot spots continued to be a serious danger, even if residents were not seeing open flames. Osby said they were working to monitor and extinguish those hot spots as they were located.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva asked anyone in a voluntary evacuation zone to be ready to go at a moment's notice, telling them to have their car packed with key documents and medications and pointed out toward the street.

Reporter Jacob Margolis described what he saw en route to the area as "a giant tidal wave of smoke making its way through the mountain."

About 500 firefighters aided by four helicopters and four air tankers making water drops have managed to slow forward progress, but the fire was still burning uncontained as of 8 p.m. The helicopters, along with one Forest Service copter, are equipped with night-flying capabilities and will continue running water drops.

Officials said one firehawk helicopter earlier had to be grounded after a bird struck and damaged the windshield. It was expected to be back in service on Friday.

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Thursday afternoon, another fire broke out near Castaic Lake, about 10 miles north of Santa Clarita. The fire, initially named Old Fire (not to be confused with the Old Water Fire, which was burning Thursday morning in San Bernardino), is now being considered a branch of the Tick Fire, and was renamed Tick Branch 10 as of Thursday evening.

Fire retardant was dropped on Tick Branch 10 just before 4:00 p.m. Thursday as flames burned dangerously close to homes in the area.

The combined fires had scorched 3,000 acres by 7:30 p.m., according to Capt. Tony Imbrenda with L.A. County Fire. An earlier update had put the fire's burn area at 5,000 acres, but officials later said that report was a mistake.

Imbrenda said there has also been fire in the Val Verde area, although they feel they have slowed the fire's westward progress. The area between Castaic and Val Verde is very hilly, the sort of terrain that can spread fire quickly in high winds.

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 3,950
  • Containment: 0%
  • Structures destroyed: Not immediately known, but at least 6 homes burned
  • Structures threatened: Yes, approximately 10,000
  • Resources deployed: About 500 firefighters, 4 helicopters and 4 air tankers

EVACUATIONS

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for all residents in the following areas:

  • North of the 14 Freeway, east of Whites/Plum Canyon, south of Vasquez Canyon, west of Agua Dolce
  • South of the 14 Freeway, east of Sand Canyon, north of Placerita Canyon, and west of Robinson Ranch Golf Course

EVACUATION CENTERS

People:

  • College of the Canyons Gymnasium, 26455 Rockwell Can Rd., Santa Clarita
  • Newhall Community Center, 22421 Market St., Santa Clarita

Animals:

  • Large Animals: Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills 91371
  • Small Animals: Castaic Animal Care Center, 31044 Charlie Cyn Rd., Castaic 91384

CLOSURES

Roads:

  • All affected highways have been reopened
  • For more, you can check the Caltrans map here

Schools:

  • All schools in the William S. Hart Unified High School District will be closed Friday, according to the district. All teachers and staff were being told not to report to work.
  • All LAUSD schools in the San Fernando Valley will be closed Friday. Details here.

AIR QUALITY

A South Coast Air Quality Management District smoke advisory is in effect through at least Friday morning. The AQMD warned that air quality could reach the Unhealthy level in the northern and western portions of the San Fernando Valley.

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 BACKGROUND

The fire broke out in a rural area along 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.

SCENES ON THE GROUND

Jacob Margolis, who was reporting from the field, sent this dispatch when he arrived on scene in the late afternoon:

"I'm having helicopters just zooming by above, and I was actually approaching a hillside that had been on fire previously and had some spot fires going on it that some homeowners were trying to put out, when all of the sudden, out of nowhere above us, you heard the whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop -- got down and they dropped a bunch of water on the hill. It was really quite intense."

Canyon Country resident Nathan Kincaid was stuck in traffic while his wife headed to a hotel along with their 3-year-old and 5-week-old baby.

Kincaid said when he arrived, the fire looked to be a safe distance away and that fire crews appeared to be getting a handle on things.

"And then sure enough, I go in the house, come back out, pack up some extra things in the car to meet [my wife], and this whole hillside right across the street from us is on fire," Kincaid told Margolis. "So that's how quickly it can happen."

Resident David Arrendondo said he saw the fire just across the street from his house:

"Actually, you know, I was kind of worried. That's why I started throwing water all over my roof, and on my trees over there on the other side, getting worried because my house can get, catch on fire at any time. I was really scared."

HOW WE'RE REPORTING ON THIS

Reporter Jacob Margolis filed dispatches from the field. Reporter Sharon McNary, along with newscast producers, worked from the studio to confirm details. Digital producers Jessica Ogilvie and Brian Frank kept this story updated.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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

FIRE RESOURCES

YOUR QUESTIONS OR IDEAS

UPDATES: This article was updated frequently throughout the day.

This article was originally published at 3:17 p.m.