NEAR LAKE HUGHES (CBSLA) — Firefighters Friday continued to contend with the 17,000-plus acre wildfire burning near Lake Hughes which has destroyed several homes and forced dozens of people to flee.
The Lake Fire burning in the Angeles National Forest between Santa Clarita and Palmdale reached 17,482 acres and was 12% contained as of Friday night. The fire has destroyed at least 21 structures, officials said, and continues to threaten thousands more.
“Four of my friends lost their homes right up on canyon, just took it out, you know, it’s just sad,” one Lake Hughes man told CBSLA Thursday.
Homeowner Kenny Reynolds told CBSLA Thursday 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.
Making the firefight even more dangerous will be dangerously high temperatures sweeping the region Friday afternoon and remaining through Monday.
On Thursday, crews were able to take advantage of some temporary relief thanks to light rainfall brought in by tropical storm Elida in order to increase containment. That relief dissipated late Thursday and into Friday, when the blaze flared up again and continued to spread further.
“So it really just goes to show how erratic fire can be and if the conditions are ripe, which they are now, it can be very, very unpredictable,” said L.A. County Fire Department spokesperson Sky Cornell.
The blaze was reported just after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the area of Lake Hughes and Pine Canyon roads and quickly exploded amid swirling winds and high temperatures, forcing the evacuation of about 100 homes.
Some parts of the Angeles National Forest have not burned since the 1960s, fire officials said, leaving decades of brush ready to ignite in areas of rough terrain.
The goal is 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.
As of Friday, day three of the fire, crews say they are still trying to put out spot fires on both sides of Pine Cayon Road.
Evacuation centers were set up for displaced residents at Highland High School in Palmdale and the Castaic Sports Complex. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, evacuees must remain in their cars.
As of Friday night, 1,563 firefighters from LACFD, U.S. Forest Service and several other surrounding agencies were battling the blaze with the help of several water-dropping helicopters.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Evacuations will remain until power can be restored to the region, officials said. The following evacuation orders were in place:
- Lake Hughes Road West of Pine Canyon and North of Dry Gulch Rd.
- 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
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 Forest Service also made the decision to restrict public access to the Angeles National Forest, including the Cottonwood, Spunky Canyon and Sawmill-Liebre campgrounds, and a small section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help assist the community with relief efforts as the fire remains active.