(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)
Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County as firefighters continue to battle a 5,900-acre brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains north of downtown Los Angeles that has destroyed three homes and shut down a stretch of the 210 Freeway.
The governor’s declaration will ensure that state and federal assistance will be provided as quickly as possible. It came at the urging of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said the fire is the largest in the city’s history in terms of sheer acreage.
Fire officials said cooler temperatures and calmer winds Sunday should help firefighters tame the La Tuna fire, but warned that favorable weather conditions could change quickly.
“The biggest challenge and risk is the wind,” Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.
Firefighters were hoping for some relief from a heat wave that has gripped much of the state for days. Temperatures are expected to cool somewhat Sunday to 90 to 94 degrees, with a chance of some showers and lightning, as monsoonal moisture from Tropical Storm Linda moves into the region. Winds are expected to blow 3 to 8 mph, with gusts of up to 12 mph.
“That can change in a moment’s notice and the wind can accelerate very quickly,” Terrazas warned.
By 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service was tracking a thunderstorm about 10 miles north of Burbank and there was a brief shower in the Sunland area, officials said. Scattered rainfall was expected throughout the region.
The blaze has destroyed three homes in Tujunga at the end of an isolated road. Two firefighters were transported to hospitals Saturday for dehydration, according to the L.A. Fire Department.
On Sunday afternoon, Tujunga resident Frankie Fronk, 46, sat on an easy chair in front of his single-story ranch style house on McGroarty Street, staring up at the recently burned ridgeline. He was looking for puffs of smoke, any sign of a flare up.
And he’s seen a few.
Fronk said he was ordered to evacuate on Saturday about 2:30 p.m. He and his wife grabbed a few mementos and their pitbull mix, Harley, and started calling around for a hotel. After checking about 10 different places, charging between $200 and $300, he finally found a place in Burbank for $135. But he returned home Sunday morning.
Fronk said that the fire later kicked up in the neighborhood, with the wind driving flames into a home up the street on Glenties Way.
The fire was only 10% contained Sunday, officials said. Evacuations were temporarily lifted Saturday night in Burbank. But officials said a flare-up caused them to issue new evacuation orders in the Burbank Estates and Castleman Lane areas.
Evacuation orders remain in effect in Glendale and Los Angeles. “Please — have your belongings ready and prepared in the event that you are asked to evacuate,” L.A. City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez urged residents at a news briefing Sunday.
The blaze broke out Friday, with shifting winds sending flames in multiple directions. Fire crews confronted the same erratic conditions Saturday.
Terrazas said the number of people battling the flames had doubled since Saturday morning, with more than 1,000 firefighters on the scene Sunday. The chief said they hope to fully contain the fire within three to four days. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but officials said there is no evidence of arson.
Two of the three destroyed homes are believed to have lacked brush clearance, which Terrazas stressed was crucial for firefighters to be able to protect houses.
As of Sunday morning, Terrazas said about 25% of the fire was burning north of the 210 Freeway and the rest south of the freeway, which remained closed Sunday from the 2 Freeway to Wheatland Avenue.
Hundreds of residents in Burbank, Glendale and the Sunland-Tujunga area were ordered to evacuate on Saturday.
One of those ordered to leave Saturday was Chris Hall, 37, who was spraying the roof of his Sunland home with a garden hose when two police officers pulled up to his driveway.
“Now it’s mandatory,” one of the officers told him. “Get your stuff and go.”
Hall said he wanted to stay but did not argue. He piled important documents and cherished belongings — including photos of his daughter’s birth, birthdays and visits to the zoo — into the trunk of his Nissan Sentra.
“Everything else can be replaced,” he said, sitting behind the wheel of his car.
In Tujunga, music teacher Valerie Keith frantically loaded her pets in her car, along with her two best violins, spilling the yogurt she had taken for breakfast. Before she left, she remembered something, dashing back inside to grab a framed photograph of her mother and a banjo made from a tambourine.
“When you have to leave for safety, then you suddenly realize what’s important,” she said.
Evacuation centers were opened in Burbank, Glendale and Sunland-Tujunga. Terrazas said Sunday that 1,000 people had shown up to at the centers and that 900 had been released so far. They were not allowed, however, to return to the evacuated zones.
The fire has also displaced cats, dogs and horses: Councilwoman Rodriguez urged residents to donate hay and water buckets for horses and to consider fostering pets that have been separated from their families.
To the east, a fast-moving brush fire west of Beaumont in Riverside County that erupted Saturday afternoon has grown to 3,300 acres and forced some residents to evacuate their homes.
The Palmer fire started around 1:30 p.m. near San Timoteo Canyon Road and Fisherman’s Retreat. The fire was 15% contained as of Sunday morning.
Two small brush fires were also put out Saturday in Malibu. Another one hit near a toll plaza on the 73 Freeway in Newport Beach.
The La Tuna fire has already stoked worries that mudslides could threaten the area this winter. California State Assemblywoman Laura Friedman said Sunday that she was determined to make sure that restoration efforts begin quickly to minimize the chance of mudslides, saying it was going to be “a huge concern.”
Times staff writers Alene Tchekmedyian, Ruben Vives, Andrea Castillo and David Zahniser contributed to this report.
1:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with the governor’s declaration.
1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from an evacuee.
12:40 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from the National Weather Service.
11:45 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from city and fire officials.
10:55 a.m.: This article was updated with the latest weather conditions.
9 a.m.: This article was updated with news of a local disaster declaration.
7 a.m.: This article was updated with a new Burbank evacuation order.
Originally published at 5:50 a.m.