Firefighters on Monday are making progress in efforts to contain a Santa Clarita-area brush fire that threatened thousands of homes, prompted evacuations and temporarily shut down the 14 Freeway.
The blaze has charred at least 1,498 acres and is 48% contained.
The containment was a marked change from the previous night, when it was at 0%, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The acreage increased about 200 acres overnight.
No homes were immediately damaged or destroyed.
Nearly 5,000 structures were threatened at one point, with up to nine homes under evacuated. About 40 people were impacted by the order, according to L.A. County Fire Chief Deputy David R. Richardson Jr.
Residents were allowed to return home around 2 p.m.
A temporary evacuation area was opened Sunday night at a church parking lot in Palmdale. With COVID-19 still a concern, residents were required to remain inside their vehicles while in the Victory Outreach lot located at 37419 25th St. East.
The evacuation center closed at 4 p.m.
Air in the Santa Clarita Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains has been deemed unhealthy as a result of the fire, according to South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Resident are urged to avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and limit physical activities, including exercise.
The Soledad Fire started about 3:30 p.m. Sunday and was spreading along the 14 Freeway — east of Santa Clarita — as county fire and Angeles National Forest resources arrived.
Gusty 20 to 30 mph winds helped the brush fire explode into an 800-acre blaze within a couple of hours after igniting.
Although the fire’s growth slowed overnight, there is still the potential for spread Monday as firefighters continue to face challenging conditions, including hot and dry weather. Temperatures are forecast into the mid-to-high 90s, and wind — which helped fuel the spread of flames Sunday — will likely remain an issue.
“Don’t be fooled. There’s still a huge potential out there with the open line for fire. The fire could start running in any direction due to the geography, the topography of the land, as well [as] when it’s aided by wind,” Richardson said.
Adding to the challenge, fire crews have also responded to other blazes in the Pine Canyon and Big Rock Creek areas amid the firefight in the Santa Clarita area, according to Robert Garcia, the Angeles National Forest fire chief.
A small brush fire also erupted in nearby Newhall on Monday morning, according to the L.A. County Fire Department. The flames scorched nearly three acres before firefighters stopped forward progress.
“So, resources and crews have been working really hard over the last couple of days,” Garcia said. “It really speaks to the fire conditions that we’re facing now, and what the resources that are out there on the ground working around the clock are facing.”
The fire temporarily caused a full closure on the 14 Freeway near Soledad Canyon Road. The southbound side of the freeway reopened Sunday and all northbound lanes had reopened by 4 p.m. Monday.
The Soledad Canyon Road on-ramp and the Agua Dulce Canyon Road off-ramp remained closed Monday morning.
About 500 firefighters are continuing to build containment lines and douse hot spots from the ground and air, according to officials.
One firefighter was injured as crews battled the flames, but no details were available on the nature of the injury or the crew member’s condition. No other injuries have been reported.
The cause of the fire remains unknown and under investigation. However, officials did warn residents against using fireworks, which lit up Southern California skies over the Fourth of July weekend and may have caused other blazes in the region.
“Fireworks in general are a huge hazard,” Richardson said. “We’ve been battling fires throughout the entire weekend, and even before that, just due to not only illegal fireworks but the so-called, ‘safe and sane’ fireworks as well.”
He noted that fireworks, illegal or not, “cause a huge hazard for us, especially when they’re being set off in dry areas, in those communities that are vulnerable to wildland fire.”