Los Angeles Wildfires Grow

The Santa Ana winds continued to sweep through the San Fernando Valley today, sparking embers that intensified wildfires north of Los Angeles. The wildfires closed portions of two major highways, backing up traffic all along the foothills.

At present, the 210 Freeway is still closed approximately 15 miles in both directions between I-5 and SR2. The 118 Freeway, where the flames of the Marek Fire jumped across all eight lanes, is still closed in two spots in both directions.

Dan Steinberg, Associated Press

Credit: Dan Steinberg, Associated Press

From the Associated Press:

Two wildfires driven by strong Santa Ana winds threatened neighborhoods near Los Angeles on Monday, killing a man, destroying several dozen mobile homes and forcing evacuations.

Firefighters were struggling with a 3,700-acre blaze in the San Fernando Valley’s northeastern corner when a new blaze erupted at midmorning a few miles to the west in mountains above the Porter Ranch area and quickly grew to 2,000 acres.

“It is a blowtorch we can’t get in front of,” said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Frank Garrido.

Fire officials could not immediately estimate how many homes in Porter Ranch were in the fire’s path. Flames burned furiously at midday just across a road from one development of luxury homes. Fire officials alerted other communities as far south as Malibu, 20 miles away.

Los Angeles Times

Credit: Los Angeles Times

The fatality occurred at the first fire, where neighborhoods abut rugged canyonlands below the mountainous Angeles National forest. The victim was a man who appeared to be a transient living in a makeshift shelter, officials said.

About 1,200 people were evacuated because of the Marek Fire, which was just 5 percent contained.

Los Angeles County fire Capt. Mark Savage said 37 or 38 mobile homes were destroyed by that blaze early Monday.

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2 Comments on “Los Angeles Wildfires Grow”

  1. Vern Says:

    About 5:30 Sunday morning I woke up to hear a commotion outside which included yelling and sirens. We were being told to evacuate. But the real reason I woke up to begin with was not the commotion, but the red glow on the hill that I could see through my bedroom window. It started getting brighter and then I could see tall flames licking above the horizon of the steep hill high above us. I knew instantly that it did not bode well for the other trailer court on the hilltop just behind the hill I was seeing. It was nearly certain to mean that there were losses there. (In fact, this one had over 50 homes in it and I saw later that nearly 35 or more were burned!)

    Knowing that I would soon have to evacuate, indications being so obvious, I jumped up, dressed and started grabbing the things I thought I should take “just in case”. This included paperwork on vehicles and the home, and most of my backup disks for my work on the computer, program disks, the computers (because of the work in them not backed up on disks yet), a bit of juice to drink, some underwear and a few other items.

    I forgot to take my new passport and could have included more clothes, but time was short and, of course, I was not thinking quickly enough. Also, I could not take much more in my vehicle as I had returned from an art show just the evening before and had put off unloading it until the next day when I would be more rested. I just did not have more room to put things in the already packed pickup.

    I really recommend making a plan for such emergencies as to what to take in a short amount of time and what to keep in a packet that can be grabbed in one swoop if time is that short. It would be well to check with the insurance to see if you need to carry extra to cover personal things; I did not realize how much I could lose until I went over it in my mind. And not the least of it, it would be good to go through the house and video or photograph what you have so you can PROVE you had it (and remember what you had). Also, it wouldn’t hurt to have a second set of things at a relative or friend’s place even as far as out of state; like backup disks of important jobs or work, contracts, papers, other legal documents.

    But my feeling was pretty strong that I had nothing to worry about anyway, so I chose to just get going and not worry about the rest of it all.

    I got outside and talked with a few other residents and saw that people were lining up their vehicles so as to exit the mobile home park. I got in line to wait. (We had to wait since the roads out are through residential areas and they also were evacuating. In fact, I suppose we waited at least 15 minutes or half an hour after I got in line—time can be SO flexible on occasion.)

    While standing around I saw people responding in various ways, but not really how it was reported in the news. I saw no panic or feelings of doom. In fact, some like myself were actually a bit bored by the sitting and waiting. Some took pictures and were watching with interest as the fire raced down the hill and in only a few minutes had already jumped the freeway.

    I saw flames on the south side of the 118 that looked over two stories high. Trees on the hill, the few that were there, flamed instantly into torches that lit the early morning. I did not know until later that a transient had a place just west of the main road that paralleled the west and north of the park, and he ended up caught in it and was killed, along with his dog.

    The smoke got thicker and I saw embers blowing about. By the time traffic started to move it was definitely time to get out. Thick billowing smoke was blowing directly down the street toward me about 60 miles an hour; not smoke one could see through like we’d already had, but so thick you couldn’t see into it at all. This was like that you see coming off a burning tire.

    I still wasn’t worried; we were moving and it would take only a minute to be well away. I drove down the street until I could turn to the east and get out of the smoke that was blowing over the south of the city there and found a place to park. Then I called a friend and arranged to stay at his house until I could either get back into my home or arrange something else.

    I went to his place (he was out of town but his wife let me in and showed me an extra room I could stay in.) I showered off the smoke and got busy on the laptop (thank goodness there was a local wireless network I could get into) and started collecting information about places to call for data about the fire, what agencies were in charge, who to go to to answer further questions, etc. I also looked to see what news and videos were available.

    The frustrating part of it was in realizing that the news agencies seem to report facts, but they turn out to be generalities and are so vague that anyone really wanting specific data can’t get it; the vague and general facts only tend to stir up a person and disturb. I suppose this to be partly because accurate data is not available in all the hubbub, but really, that is often what the news people seem to DO.

    I think there should be some group or section attached to the firefighting teams or the police that go in as soon as it is relatively safe and take pictures and videos with commentary on exact addresses and such that could be posted on the web or on TV so people could see if their homes were safe.

    The last several times I have watched news of fires down here and in other places the common factor seemed to be that owners were kept in the dark for days and maybe up to a week or longer as to whether they even HAD a home any more.

    This is just SO unnecessary as, like I say, a small trained crew could safely go in, record accurate information with photos or video, and post it where it would be readily available to owners and families.

    Sure, the authorities might argue that they do not want to have other people in there they would have to watch, but do you know, I saw them letting a reporter into the same place next to where I live on the next afternoon while preventing residents from entering. It was SAFE at that time. And, sure, the reality was that heavy winds were expected later in the evening that might blow more fire in there and it WAS a good idea to keep us out for one night so we were safe and not in the way. But that afternoon it was SAFE for a reporter doing essentially what a crew would do; take pictures and gather information.

    It is telling of a person’s sense of truth and what is going on around him that one of the residents on that northern and western end of the park where the fire came closest that he was quoted as saying had he not broken out through a locked exit gate that “people might have died” and he’d seen his home burn and (I think) 28 years of life was lost as a result. No, his house still stands and no one was really endangered so dramatically. But he got good coverage for himself by telling his story on TV and to the news.

    I was finally allowed in after 9 am Tuesday. But the power was off and I had an appointment so I showered and went to that. I spent the day helping someone get some things done and returned home in the evening. By about 6 or 6:30 the power was restored (our power was interrupted by damage to lines up the canyon and along the highway near us).

    I spent the evening watering my plants outside and washing down the walkway, the house, and the carport so the smoky smell would abate. (It really helps!)

    Today my internet connection got restored so I could once more do work on web pages, but I also spent some time talking with neighbors and the manager who was presiding over the work being done outside. The only place lost out of all those here was directly across the street. It was a total loss. But the fire department put it out and protected the neighboring houses pretty well. There was some scorching and a bit of heat damage to a few things, but overall no really significant loss to any other structures. The cable lines at the distribution point was in front of that house and these got burned and is the reason I had to wait for it to be restored.

    Yes, the people in the canyon and on the hill really took a beating. I was fortunate to be where I was and we came through relatively unscathed. My hat off to the fire crews, the police, and to the officials who did so much to protect us as much as they did!

  2. Vern Says:

    I live in Blue Star Mobile Home Court, at the bottom of the hill and mouth of the canyon.


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