Driven by winds, the massive Saddleridge Fire has burned through more than 7,500 acres and destroyed at least 31 structures in the northern San Fernando Valley, authorities said Friday.
A man died of cardiac arrest as firefighters worked to put the growing flames moving west from where the fire started in Sylmar, authorities said. The brush fire was reported just after 9 p.m. Thursday near the Yarnell Road exit of the 210 Freeway, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Within 12 hours, it exploded to 4,700 acres and was 0% contained, authorities said. By 2 p.m., the Los Angeles Fire Department announced the fire had spread to 7,542 acres — an area equivalent to more than 11 square miles.
At least 16,000 homes remained under mandatory evacuations Friday evening as firefighters managed to reach 13% containment of the blaze, fire officials and police said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday evening at least 70,000 were still affected by the evacuations.
However, police were expected to escort residents who need to pick up their possessions.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation as arson investigators follow up on reports saying a man witnessed the fire start near a power line in Sylmar, LAFD Chief Ralph M. Terrazas said.
One firefighter who suffered a minor eye wound and no other injuries were reported, Terrazas said.
More than 1,000 firefighters were at the scene assisting with the blaze.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state has secured assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday to battle the blaze.
The fire was moving in a westerly direction Thursday night as it burned through medium to heavy brush near the Porter Ranch and Granada Hills areas.
It was moving in a northerly direction toward the city of Santa Clarita Friday morning, Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Dave Richardson said.
"In addition to that, it continues to burn not only through the city but unincorporated Los Angeles County toward Browns Canyon, Twin Lakes community," Richardson said.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said 450 members of the department were being dispatched to evacuated areas to keep watch over the vacant homes.
As thousands remained evacuated, Terrazas called on residents to continue to heed the orders.
"Be patient with us," he said. "We want to get you back into your homes. But we want to make sure you're safe."
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Dangerous flames from the Saddleridge Fire have prompted several freeway closures. Earlier, stretches of the 118 Freeway were closed and reopened by 11:30 a.m. The following freeways are still closed.
- Northbound 5 Freeway at 118
- Westbound 210 Freeway at 118
- Eastbound 210 Freeway at 5
- Northbound 405 Freeway at 118
Mandatory evacuations are in place for at least 23,000 homes in the following areas.
- ALL of Porter Ranch (north of 118 Freeway) from Reseda to De Soto
- Oakridge Estates
- West of Balboa, north of Sesnon to the Ventura County border with DeSoto as the western border (north of the 118 Freeway)
As some evacuation centers were filled to capacity Friday, authorities opened additional facilities throughout the San Fernando Valley. The Los Angeles Fire Department announced at 2 p.m. that the following centers are open.
- Branford Recreation Center at 3306 Brandford St. in Arleta
- Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Recreation Center at 14201 Huston St. in Sherman Oaks
- Lanark Recreation Center at 21816 Lanark St. in Canoga Park
- Northridge Recreation Center at 18300 Lemarsh St. in Northridge
- Granada Hills Recreation Center at 16730 Chatsworth St.
- Balboa Sports Center at 17015 Burbank Blvd. in Encino
L.A. City Councilman John Lee said women who are pregnant or have other special needs may be able to find shelter at the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission, with evacuees being accepted on a "case-by-case" basis.
Large animals can be taken to the following facilities:
- Hansem Dam: 11770 Foothill Blvd. in Lake View Terrace
- Pierce College: 6201 Winnetka Blvd. in Woodland Hills
Counilwoman Rodriguez urged anyone needing information about evacuations to text READY to 888777.
Dozens of schools in three counties have closed Friday as a result of the fire. The Los Angeles Times issued the following list of closures:
- William S. Hart Union High School District
- Castaic Union School District
- Sulphur Springs Union School District
- Newhall School District
Los Angeles County:
- Cal State Northridge
- Pierce College
- Los Angeles Mission College
- Bert Corona High School and Bert Corona Charter School
- Castlebay Lane Charter
- Chaminade College Preparatory Middle School
- Danube Avenue Elementary
- Granada Hills Charter High School’s Devonshire and Zelzah campuses
- El Oro Way Charter for Enriched Studies
- Frost Middle School
- Haskell Elementary STEAM Magnet
- Jane Addams Continuation High School
- John F. Kennedy High School
- Knollwood Preparatory Academy
- North Valley Military Institute
- Porter Ranch Community School
- Rinaldi Adult School
- Valley International Preparatory High School
- Van Gogh Charter
- Filmore Unified School District
- Los Cerritos Middle School and Lang Ranch Elementary School in the Conejo Valley Unified School District
- MATES charter school in Thousand Oaks
- Mupu School near Santa Paula
- All Simi Valley Unified Schools
Post Office Closures
Two local post offices were also forced to close as a result of the fire.
- Porter Ranch: 19300 Rinaldi St.
- Newhall: 24201 The Old Road
Porter Ranch customers who did not receive delivery can get their mail at the Northridge post office at 9534 Reseda Blvd. Chatsworth customers looking for their mail can get it at 21606 Devonshire St.
Officials said a pickup location for those in Newhall has yet to be determined due to continuing fire activity.
KTLA's Marissa Wenzke contributed to this report.