NEAR LAKE HUGHES (CBSLA) – Firefighters braced for an extended fight Thursday as they worked to contain a wildfire that had scorched 11,000 acres and burned several homes in the Angeles National Forest between Santa Clarita and Palmdale.
By nightfall, the Lake Fire was 5% contained, but evacuation orders remained in place due to wind forecasts and high heat expected Friday.
“This will be a major fire for several days,” U.S. Forest Service Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Robert Garcia told reporters at a Thursday morning briefing.
The blaze was reported just after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the area of Lake Hughes and Pine Canyon roads and quickly exploded, growing to 10,500 acres by Thursday morning amid swirling winds and high temperatures, and forcing the evacuation of about 100 homes.
At least three structures were destroyed and 5,420 threatened, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. No injuries have been reported.
“I will report that although we’re showing 0% containment at this time…some tremendous work was done last night, overnight, in the area around Lake Hughes and Pine Canyon, when the fire crossed Pine Canyon Road last night,” Garcia said. “And there was a tremendous firefight to protect lives and property in that area,” Garcia said.
Homeowner Kenny Reynolds told CBSLA that his house was mostly destroyed and his property scorched.
“There was a big wall of flame, kind of came over a little quicker than we thought, usually it comes a lot slower, or last time it came a lot slower,” Reynolds said, referring to 2013’s Powerhouse Fire, which broke out in the Angeles National Forest and destroyed several dozen homes.
Reynolds said he barely had time to evacuate, as fire tornadoes formed on hillsides around his home.
“Stayed as long as we could, but it was kind of surrounding the house, and me and the neighbors evacuated as flames kind of engulfed his house,” Reynolds said.
Some parts of the Angeles National Forest have not burned since the 1960, fire officials said, leaving decades of brush ready to ignite. There was some light rainfall Thursday morning which provided relief to fire crews.
However, a heat wave which is expected to hit the region Friday and remain through Monday will create challenging conditions for firefighters.
“We have significant cloud cover, and in certain areas, a few light showers,” L.A. County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said. “But we are concerned, because when the cloud cover leaves, as you have been aware…we are experiencing significant heat up, we’re expecting significant temperatures later today. But more so Friday, Saturday, Sunday moving into next week. We will have our crews, dozers, firefighters, working all day to create containment for this fire.”
The goal Thursday was to keep the blaze contained within an area bordered by Castaic Lake to the south, Highway 138 to the north, Red Rock Mountain to the west and Tule Ridge to the east, authorities said Thursday.
More than 1,000 personnel from USFS, LACFD and several other agencies were battling the fire on the ground and in the air with the help of three water-dropping helicopters.
The cause of the blaze remains unknown.
The following evacuation orders were in place:
- Lake Hughes Road west of Pine Canyon and north of Dry Gulch Road.
- East of Ridge Route Road.
- West of Lake Hughes Road and Fire Station 78.
- North of Pine Canyon and Lake Hughes Road.
- South of SR-138
Evacuation centers were established at Highland High School in Palmdale and the Castaic Sports Complex in Castaic. However, only two families were staying in the shelters as of Thursday morning, officials said.
Several roads were closed:
- Lake Hughes Road is closed from Ridge Route Road to Pine Canyon.
- 3 Points Rd from Highway 138 to Pine Canyon.
- Old Ridge Road from Highway 138 to Pine Canyon.
- San Francisquito Canyon Rd from Stator Lane to Spunky Canyon.
The Lake Fire was just one of three wildfires in Southern California fire crews were battling Thursday.