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Sat Oct 12, 2019, 03:06 AM

City and state declare emergencies as Saddleridge fire burns homes in the Valley


City and state declare emergencies as Saddleridge fire burns homes in the Valley

By Hannah Fry, Marisa Gerber, Leila Miller, Matthew Ormseth, Richard Winton

Oct. 11, 2019 |6:57 PM

A wind-driven brush fire carved a devastating path in the northern foothills of the San Fernando Valley on Friday, chewing through 7,500 acres, burning at least 31 structures, including homes, and forcing thousands to flee.

The Saddleridge fire, which broke out about 9 p.m. Thursday on the north side of the 210 Freeway in Sylmar amid strong Santa Ana winds, spread rapidly westward into Porter Ranch and other communities. At its peak, the blaze was moving at a rate of roughly 800 acres an hour. The fire is 13% contained.

Mandatory evacuations were issued overnight to roughly 23,000 homes encompassing a large swath of neighborhoods north of the 118 Freeway from Tampa Avenue all the way to the Ventura County line — an area covering 100,000 residents. Officials warned that other communities near the fire need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if the winds shift.

Conversely, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said he’s seen homeowners stay behind to battle raging flames on their property with garden hoses. He urged residents to evacuate when ordered.

The LAPD is escorting evacuees for five-minute visits to their homes to collect medicine, important documents and small pets.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom have issued emergency declarations because of the fire. Newsom’s declaration also covers fires in Riverside County. The governor’s office said it has obtained a federal grant to help offset the firefighting costs.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury to his eye while battling the blaze, and a man in his late 50s died after suffering a heart attack while talking with firefighters early Friday, officials said. Authorities could not confirm reports that the man was trying to fight the fire from his home before he was stricken.

More than 1,000 firefighters from multiple agencies continued attacking the blaze from the air and ground Friday afternoon. Thick smoke choked the San Fernando Valley as motorists struggled to navigate around freeway closures, snarling traffic in the region.

Helicopters and amphibious firefighting aircraft known as “super scoopers” soared through the air dropping water, while ground crews manned bulldozers cutting containment lines into nearby hillsides in an effort to slow the fire’s spread. At least one air tanker blanketed fire retardant across the ridges between Granada Hills and Porter Ranch.

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