California Wildfires Turn Deadly as 100,000 are Evacuated
As the Saddleridge Brush Fire continues to burn on the north side of Los Angeles, authorities have issued mandatory evacuations for about 23,000 homes.
The fire began around 9 p.m. Thursday in Sylmar, one of the northern-most neighborhoods of the city, but the powerful Santa Ana winds quickly spread the fire at a rate of 800 acres per hour toward the Santa Susana Mountains.
By early Friday morning, the fire had burned though over 4,700 acres, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas told The Associated Press there were sustained winds of 20-25 miles per hour. Wind gusts over 50 mph also contributed to the fire’s quick growth.
“As you can imagine the embers from the wind have been traveling a significant distance which causes another fire to start,” he said.
Over 1,000 firefighters have been assigned to battle the blaze, but it still remained zero percent contained as of Friday morning, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said around 100,000 people had been ordered to evacuate by authorities.
At least five evacuation centers were set up to accommodate those displaced by the wildfire, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Edwin Bernard, a 73-year-old resident of Sylmar, said the fire spread so quickly that he and his wife only had time to grab their three dogs before evacuating.
“It was a whole curtain of fire,” he told the AP. “There was fire on all sides. We had to leave.”
Only one confirmed fatality has been attributed to the Los Angeles County fire, but another fire that started Thursday in Riverside County has also claimed a life.
The Sandalwood Fire, located east of the Los Angeles blaze, is nowhere near as large as the Saddleridge Fire, but it has caused more damage.
Authorities determined the Riverside County fire was caused by a trash truck that dumped a pile of burning trash near dry vegetation.
The fire spread to the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, where one civilian died as a result, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. The fire was 10 percent contained as of Friday, and evacuations orders were still in effect for the area.
The blaze burned through 800 acres and destroyed at least 74 structures.
The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection recognizes wildfires are a “natural part of California’s landscape,” but also noted that the state recently experienced the deadliest and most destructive fires in its history in 2017 and 2018.
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