New brush fires erupt in rural Los Angeles CountyNew brush fires swept over more than 3 square miles and prompted evacuations in rural Los Angeles County hills Thursday, while good weather to the north helped firefighters building containment lines around two wildfires that destroyed homes in remote mountain communities earlier in the week.
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (AP) — New brush fires swept over more than 3 square miles and prompted evacuations in rural Los Angeles County hills Thursday, while good weather to the north helped firefighters building containment lines around two wildfires that destroyed homes in remote mountain communities earlier in the week.
Water-dropping helicopters and engine crews rushed to two blazes on both sides of State Route 14 northeast of Santa Clarita, a northern Los Angeles suburb, as orange flames exploded through dry brown grasses.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for the community of Leona Valley on Thursday evening, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Matt Levesque said.
About 2,200 people live in Leona Valley. A permanent inmate firefighter camp and some horse-country homes in canyons evacuated earlier.
As the fire to the north of State Route 14 grew to 2,000 acres, fire officials to ordered up more engines, bringing the number of firefighters in the area to about 600, Levesque said.
State Route 14 snakes through the San Gabriel Mountains, connecting Los Angeles to the high desert. Angeles National Forest lands lie on either side. The area is west of the 250-square-mile zone scorched by last summer's Station Fire, the largest wildland blaze in county history.
The county was joined by the U.S. Forest Service in directing the firefighting on the blaze south of the highway. About 200 firefighters were on the 250-acre fire, Levesque said.
A third blaze in the county, west of the high-desert Antelope Valley city of Lancaster, was stopped at 30 acres.
The situation was calmer in adjacent Kern County, where two fires destroyed residences this week.
A 2½-square-mile blaze near Tehachapi on the western edge of the Mojave Desert was 44 percent contained after burning about 30 homes and other structures in a scattered community called Old West Ranch.
A pattern of cool, moist morning and evening air was helping firefighters in the Tehachapi area, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.
Old West Ranch nonetheless remained evacuated, affecting about 150 people, said John Buchanan, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The blaze erupted Tuesday afternoon and rapidly swept through an area where Kern County fire authorities say there is no history of any fires on record, meaning vegetation hadn't burned there in more than a century.
To the north, a fire that destroyed eight residences and a few outbuildings as it spread across about 25 square miles of the Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada was 12 percent contained, authorities said.
Some 2,400 firefighters, 124 engines and 14 helicopters worked the blaze burning on both sides of the Kern River north of the town of Kernville, a destination for rafting, fishing and hiking in the southern Sierra.
“The crews have made real good progress the last couple of days because of the weather,” said Pete Jankowski, a U.S. Forest Service information officer.
The cooler temperatures and some overcast skies calmed the blaze, in contrast to the initial hours when fire behavior was too dangerous to put firefighters into the steep and rugged terrain.
Many hand crews were doing the labor-intensive work of cutting line, and some were having to camp out, Jankowski said.
“They're doing their work, eating and sleeping up there so they can get back at it, because it's such a long distance to get them up there,” he said.
Despite the fire, the region's summer activities appeared to be getting back to normal, Jankowski said.
“There's fishermen out there, there's rafters, there's kayakers,” he said after returning from Kernville to the command center at Lake Isabella. “Other than some smoke, you wouldn't know there's anything else going on.”
The incident command said a task force of federal and Kern County law enforcement officers was formed to investigate the fire, which began before early Monday and was believed to be human-caused.