Fire burning in Granada Hills, Porter Ranch, Sylmar blackens 7,552 acres

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PORTER RANCH (CNS) – A brush fire that has burned 7,552 acres, damaged or destroyed 31 structures and forced about 100,000 people from their homes in parts of the San Fernando Valley was 19 % contained this morning.

The Saddleridge Fire burned in the areas of Sylmar, Granada Hills and Porter Ranch since it was first reported just after 9 p.m. Thursday off the westbound Foothill (210) Freeway near Yarnell Street and Saddle Ridge Road in Sylmar. It quickly spread due to wind-blown embers that jumped the Golden State (5) Freeway about 11:20 p.m., spreading the flames into Granada Hills and Porter Ranch, according to Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The fire exploded in size from about 60 acres Thursday night to 4,600 acres early Friday morning. As of 5 p.m. Friday, the fire had scorched 7,542 acres, the department said.

LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said 13 structures were destroyed, while the rest suffered varying degrees of damage.

By Friday afternoon, fire officials said the flames were primarily advancing on the fire’s northern flank.

National Weather Service forecasters noted that humidity levels in the area were expected to remain in the single digits — meaning critically dry conditions that prompted an extension of a red flag warning until 6 p.m. today.

One person, described only as a man in his 50s, died of a heart attack Friday morning in the Porter Ranch area, according to the LAFD. Terrazas said the man was actually speaking to firefighters when he went into cardiac arrest, and he died at a hospital. According to reports from the scene, the man had been working to protect his home from the blaze.

One firefighter suffered a minor eye injury, according to the LAFD.

The massive fire prompted a mandatory evacuation order for all residents of Porter Ranch north of the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway from Reseda Boulevard to DeSoto Avenue. Residents of Granada Hills from Balboa Boulevard and north of Sesnon Boulevard to the Ventura County border were under a mandatory evacuation order. Mandatory evacuations were also issued for the Oakridge Estates community north of the Foothill Freeway in Sylmar.

The evacuation orders affected roughly 23,000 homes — equating to about 100,000 people, authorities said.

At 5 p.m., the evacuation order was lifted for all homes south of the 118 Freeway, and Los Angeles police were arranging escorts for people in other areas to briefly return to their homes to collect important documents, medications or other needed items.

And according to Caltrans, the following freeways are now open in the Saddleridge Fire area:

  • the southbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway;
  • the eastbound Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway;
  • the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway;
  • the northbound and southbound Golden State (5) Freeway;
  • the northbound Golden State Freeway connector to the northbound Antelope Valley Freeway;
  • the eastbound Foothill (210) Freeway at the Golden State Freeway;
  • the westbound Foothill Freeway at the Ronald Reagan Freeway
  • the northbound Golden State Freeway truck route.

The southbound Golden State Freeway truck route, the southbound Antelope Valley Freeway to the southbound Golden State Freeway truck route and the northbound Golden State Freeway to the northbound Antelope Valley Freeway truck route all remain closed this morning.

Eight evacuation centers were established, but many of them quickly reached capacity, although space appeared to be opening up sporadically as the day wore on. The evacuation centers were opened at:

  • Sylmar Recreation Center, 13109 Borden Ave.;
  • Mason Recreation Center, 10500 Mason Ave. in Chatsworth;
  • Granada Hills Recreation Center, 16730 Chatsworth St.;
  • Northridge Recreation Center, 18300 Lemarsh St.,
  • Lanark Recreation Center, 21816 Lanark St. in Canoga Park;
  • Balboa Sports Complex, 17015 Burbank Blvd., Encino;
  • Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Recreation Center, 14201 Huston St.; and
  • Branford Recreation Center, 13306 Branford St., Arleta.

Large animals can be taken to the Hansen Dam Recreation Area at 11770 Foothill Blvd. in Lake View Terrace or Pierce College at 6201 Winnetka Ave. in Woodland Hills.

Los Angeles police officers escorted evacuees back into their homes for five minutes Friday night to retrieve pets, medication or necessary paperwork. Any resident who chose to stay in the evacuation zone would be warned against doing so, according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore.

“If individuals refuse to leave, they’ll be admonished, we’ll body-worn camera record them, we will get their next of kin and their information, and they’ll be left there over our objections,” Moore told reporters Friday evening.

About 330 juveniles and staff from the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall at 16350 Filbert St. in Sylmar were evacuated Friday morning. The Sylmar Juvenile Courthouse at the same location was also closed. Court officials said all cases on calendar Friday were postponed, except those with “statutory deadlines,” which were being heard at the Eastlake Juvenile Courthouse, 1601 Eastlake Ave., Los Angeles.

The juveniles were evacuated to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, located at 7285 Quill Drive in Downey.

“Visiting of youth who are assigned to Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall and currently being housed at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall due to the (Saddleridge Fire) will resume on Sunday, October 13,” the department tweeted late Friday night.

Roughly 1,000 firefighters from LAFD, Los Angeles County Fire Department and Angeles National Forest were on the ground battling the flames, aided by water-dropping helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft dropping fire retardant.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who cut short a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, due to the fire, and county Board of Supervisors chair Janice Hahn both signed local emergency declarations, and by late afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom had declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles and Riverside counties. The declarations free up local and state resources to aid in the firefighting effort.

There was no immediate word on what sparked the blaze. Terrazas noted that city officials had been working with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to clear homeless people out of fire-prone areas during the red-flag conditions that began Thursday, but he said he did not know whether there were any encampments near the flashpoint of the blaze.

Various media reports cited a witness claiming the first flames erupted at the base of a Southern California Edison transmission tower along Saddle Ridge Road. Terrazas said he was aware of the reports “of a witness seeing fire fall from a transmission tower,” but there still had not been any determination of what caused the fire.

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