Repopulation Begins in 4,000-Acre Tick Fire That Destroyed Homes in Santa Clarita Area

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A state of emergency has been declared as the Tick Fire continued to rage out of control Friday, destroying homes and threatening thousands more after jumping the 14 Freeway in the Sand Canyon area of Santa Clarita.

A burned home is seen in the Santa Clarita area during the Tick Fire on Oct. 25, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

A burned home is seen in the Santa Clarita area during the Tick Fire on Oct. 25, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

But officials appeared to be making progress, as they lifted evacuations in some areas at 5p.m. Friday after the blaze failed to gain acreage during the day.

The fire has burned more than 4,000, revised down from an earlier estimated of 4,300 acres, and was 10% contained Friday night, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Approximately 1,325 firefighters were assigned to the blaze as of Friday afternoon.

Amid the firefight, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for L.A. County.

In announcing the emergency proclamation, Newsom said the state has secured federal assistance that ensures the county has the enough resources to fight the blaze.

The Fire Management Assistance Grants will help enable local, state and tribal agencies to recoup eligible costs, according to a statement from the governor's office.

The Tick Fire erupted about 1:24 p.m. Thursday in the 31600 block of Tick Canyon Road in Agua Dulce and quickly spread to neighboring Santa Clarita.

Though progress had been made Friday, L.A. County Fire Deputy Chief Vince Pena said crews remain concerned about winds coming from the northeast Friday night that would transition into a prevailing wind coming from the south-southwest Saturday afternoon.

“As we do that, we have to make sure the remainder of this shift and tonight we really secure the north end of the fire,” Pena said. “We want to keep this fire out of the Angeles National Forest to the north of us and to the south of us and ensure the stability of all the housing communities in Santa Clarita.”

Still, enough work was done Friday to allow repopulation to begin, Pena said.

(An interactive map of the Tick Fire can be found here

Homes Lost, Thousands of Structures Threatened

Authorities have yet to be able to count homes destroyed in the Canyon Country area, but Pena said an 18-acre spot fire in Castaic Thursday damaged six homes and destroyed two.

Official expect figures to increase once teams are able to fully inspect the area.

"We know that number is going to rise today as we have our damage assessment teams out," L.A. County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said.

Officials had earlier released a tally of six structures destroyed, but walked that back as they said assessments were still being conducted.

More than 15,000 structures remained threatened earlier Friday. It was unclear whether that number had changed Friday afternoon.

The Tick Fire flared up early Friday morning, resulting in more homes catching fire.

One home was engulfed in flames about 4 a.m. in the 29500 Arches Lane, video from the scene showed. Gusty winds were blowing embers sideways and threatening other homes in the tightly packed neighborhood.

Smoke appeared to be coming from the attic space of another home near the burning structure.

As the sun rose, Sky5 video discovered several more burned homes in the Canyon Country area.

Mandatory evacuations in place

More than 40,000 residents were under evacuation orders as of 9:30 a.m. Friday.

“This is the largest evacuation we’ve had in Santa Clarita, over 50,000 last night. It could be more," said L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

Evacuations in some areas were lifted beginning 5 p.m. Friday. Repopulation for neighborhoods still under mandatory orders would be assessed Saturday morning, officials said.

Residents will be allowed to return home once it's safe to do so, the fire chief said.

Shelters are available to evacuees at College of the Canyons, Valencia Campus located at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department stated.

Another evacuation center opened Friday at West Ranch High School at 26255 Valencia Blvd.

However, both evacuation centers were at capacity as of 5 p.m. Friday, according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

Residents with small animals were being directed to Castaic Animal Care Center at 31044 North Charlie Canyon Road, or any L.A. County Animal Shelter.

Large animals can be brought to the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds located at 2551 W. Avenue H in Lancaster.

Pierce College in Woodland Hills is also accepting large animals again, L.A. County Animal Care and Control said Friday. The address is 6201 Winnetka Ave.

Santa Clarita is posting public safety updates on its emergency website.

Road Closures

The 14 Freeway had been shut down in both directions since Thursday night, but the northbound lanes reopened about 4 p.m. Friday.

The southbound lanes remained closed between Golden Valley and Escondido Canyon for much of the day, but three lanes reopened Friday night according to the California Highway Patrol.

Motorists were encouraged to use the following roads and highways during the closure:

  • Interstate 5
  • California State Route 138
  • San Francisquito Canyon Road

Residents should avoid Bouquet Canyon Road.

It was not immediately known when the southbound lanes would reopen.

CHP has also closed the following roads:

  • Southbound Sierra Highway at Sand Canyon
  • Westbound Vasquez Canyon at Sierra Highway
  • Southbound Sierra Highway at Davenport
  • Eastbound Vasquez Canyon at Bouquet Canyon
  • Southbound Sierra Highway at Sand Canyon
  • Westbound Vasquez Canyon at Sierra Highway
  • Soledad Canyon at Agua Dulce Canyon

School closures

Several school districts have canceled classes due to poor air quality Friday. The following schools have asked students to stay home until further notice:

  • William S. Hart Union High School District
  • Saugus Union School District
  • Castaic Union School District
  • Sulphur Spring Union School District
  • Newhall School District
  • Both campuses at College of the Canyons
  • All charter schools in the area
  • Los Angeles Unified School Districts schools within the San Fernando Valley
  • Fillmore Unified School District
  • Mupu School District

Critical fire weather

Firefighters have faced challenging weather conditions in trying to contain the blaze, with significant, erratic winds blowing up to 60 mph at the ridge tops and 40 mph at the basin, Osby.

The Santa Clarita area is under a red flag warning as strong, Santa Ana continue to blow Friday.

Gusts of 45 to 55 mph were expected to continue in the Tick Fire area through Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.

Winds are currently blowing from the northeast, but are expected to change directions into the weekend, according to Osby.

A combination of high temperatures and low humidity will add to the firefighting challenges during the day.

Crews will work to increase containment lines ahead of the shift, which could send flames in another direction.

"This morning, we have a significant amount of aircraft and retardant reinforcing the containment lines," said L.A. County Fire Battalion Chief Mike Inman, who is the operations section chief for the Tick Fire. "We're confident with the weather we can put a dent in this."

A fire weather watch is in effect for much of L.A County through the weekend, with Santa Ana winds expected to strengthen moderately again on Sunday into Monday, forecasters said.

No injuries connected to the fire have been reported.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

KTLA's Erika Martin contributed to this report.

Data pix.
Data pix.

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