11,000-Acre Creek Fire in Foothills Above Sylmar Forces Mandatory Evacuations Affecting 110,000 People

A brush fire burning in the foothills above Sylmar, Lake View Terrace and Sunland-Tujunga scorched 11,000 acres, burned at least 30 structures and forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes Tuesday.

By late afternoon, a state of emergency had been declared in both the city and county of Los Angeles, which had sent firefighters on Monday to battle the much larger Thomas Fire in Ventura County.

The Creek Fire was 0 percent contained on the night of Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: KTLA)

The Los Angeles County blaze, dubbed the Creek Fire, began about 3:42 a.m. near Gold Creek Road and Little Tujunga Canyon Road, county Fire Department Deputy Chief David Richardson said.

By midday, the fire had burned 11,000 acres and jumped the 210 Freeway. The blaze is likely to continue to grow due to powerful wind gusts in the area, authorities said.

As of 7 p.m., the blaze had scorched 11,377 acres and remained at 0 percent containment. Roughly 30 structures have been destroyed, 20 in the Kagel Canyon area and 10 in the city of Los Angeles, L.A. fire officials said.

The 210 Freeway has been shut down from from Sunland Boulevard on the east to the 5 Freeway on the west, and the 118 Freeway interchange with the 210 is also closed amid the firefight. Drivers are advised to take alternate routes to the south but were warned to expect severe congestions. Those who've evacuated will not be allowed to return home, police said.

The area north of the 210 Freeway from Lowell Boulevard on the east to the Glenoaks Boulevard off ramp on the west is under a mandatory evacuation order, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Evacuations have also been ordered in the Shallow Hills area, between Wentworth Street to the north, Wheatland Avenue on the west and Sunland Boulevard to the south.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned those not yet evacuated to be prepared to leave by gathering critical documents and putting them in a vehicle.

Smoke and flames rise from the Creek Fire near the Hansen Dam on Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: KTLA)

“Be ready to go,” Garcetti said at a news conference as sirens screamed in the distance. "This fire could sweep up over the hills. Residents as far west as Porter Ranch should be ready."

At an afternoon news conference, Garcetti said more than 30 structures were "lost," and that some 150,000 people were affected by evacuation orders. He warned that those who've been evacuated should not expect to return to their homes Tuesday night.

"We simply don't know what this fire will do. To put this in perspective, it's already bigger than the La Tuna Canyon Fire in 12 hours," Garcetti said, referring to nearly 7,200-acre fire that burned nearby in September. "We expect to be out here all week, fighting and containing this fire."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of federal funds to help battle the Creek Fire, which FEMA said was threatening more than 7,100 homes and two SoCal Edison power transmission lines.

Firefighters battle the Creek Fire as it burns near a church in Sylmar. (Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The blaze comes amid a red flag warning – due to low humidity and fierce Santa Ana winds – that is expected to last through much of the week. Fixed-wing aircraft are unable to fly and gusts of up to 45 mph are being felt, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said.

One resident who was evacuated told KTLA he was surprised at how quickly the winds shifted.

“I went back to check the garage and then all of a sudden I felt some heat," George Stanley said. "The thing had moved almost half a mile, you know, in just a matter of seconds.”

The weather conditions were impeding efforts to contain and extinguish the out-of-control blaze, as strong, gusty winds fueled the "extreme" fire behavior, according to the inciweb incident information website.

About 600 firefighters from multiple agencies were battling the inferno. L.A. County firefighters had been helping overnight on the massive Thomas Fire in Ventura County when they were called to the Creek Fire, authorities said.

One L.A. city firefighter was injured when a bulldozer rolled over. County fire Chief Daryl Osby said two of his firefighters were injured.

All three were in stable condition, according to LAFD. One was expected to be released Tuesday night, while another was set to be head home Wednesday.

As the Creek Fire burns, horses await transport from Gibson Ranch in Shadow Hills on Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: KTLA)

Reed Gibson and his father Dale, who operate Gibson Ranch in Shadow Hills, lost several barns but were able to save the horses that are boarded on the property, where flames were encroaching Tuesday afternoon.

Gibson said there are 85 horses are boarded at the ranch and more than 20 cattle. Reed Gibson said he's lived at the ranch his whole life and has never had to evacuate horses due to fire, he said. The family isn't sure what the future holds.

"It was 19 years worth of work and labor getting this place done. I might be too old to start over again," Dale Gibson said.

Ten to 15 homes were damaged or burned in Kagel Canyon, the Sheriff's Department said Tuesday morning. Homes in the Santiago Estates development in Sylmar were visibly burned.

Video from KTLA showed one home engulfed in flames on Via San Anselmo as fire crews worked to keep it from spreading to the rest of the neighborhood. Other structures were spotted burning on nearby Via Santa Barbara.

About 105 patients were voluntarily evacuated from Mountain View Convalescent Center in Sylmar.

More than a dozen shelters have been set up to help evacuated residents. At most shelters, pets are allowed to stay with their owner or owners.

Three animal shelters are also still accepting animals:

 Multiple schools have been evacuated and students are being asked to go to alternate campuses.

The fire erupted as hundreds of firefighters are battling the 50,500-acre Thomas Fire near Ventura. Several other fires are burning in Southern California as well, including the Rye Fire in Santa Clarita.

 

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