Fire crews from several agencies on Thursday continued battling a fast-moving brush fire that broke out in the Lake Hughes area Wednesday, prompting evacuations and destroying at least three structures in the Angeles National Forest.
The blaze, dubbed the Lake Fire, had scorched 11,000 acres and was 5% contained as of 7 p.m. Thursday, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s incident information website.
That’s a gain of 500 acres over the course of the day, as well as an increase in containment, which had been at 0% Wednesday morning.
Crews saw several flareups overnight and remain concerned about how the firefight will go as temperatures increase Thursday and through the weekend.
“This will be a major fire for several days,” U.S. Forest Service Fire Chief Robert Garcia said during a morning news conference.
Cooler overnight conditions allowed crews to develop some remote anchor points and hopefully gain a little control of the fire, Garcia said.
“Some tremendous work was done last night and overnight … it was a tremendous firefight to protect life and property,” Garcia said.
A federal incident management team is on its way to assist with planning the firefight, Garcia said.
Thursday afternoon, Sky5 was above a section that had flared up north of Lake Hughes Road, on the fire’s western flank. Aerial units were dropping water on the tall flames and working to surround them with retardant.
On Wednesday, the blaze quickly spread through a remote area covered in dry brush.
“The biggest issue probably here is that the vegetation in the area that the fire is burning hasn’t burned for decades, and it’s very thick and dense,” one fire official said.
Angeles National Forest Battalion Chief Seneca Smith said it was hard to predict in which direction the fire might grow.
“The primary driver of this fire has been heavy, thick, dense and dried out vegetation and steep terrain,” Smith said. “The fire behavior was so rapid as far as growth and so explosive … that it took a while for ground crews to get to the edge.”
A KTLA news van drove through an area scorched by the fire Wednesday night and found one home burning. An American Flag, untouched by the flames, was still standing in front of the home. The camera crew also came across downed power lines and several vehicles that had been burned.
“We know that we lost several structures last night,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby said during the news conference. Some of the destroyed structures were in the Pine Canyon area, he said. Officials were still out in the field trying to determine the exact count, Osby said.
An update released earlier Thursday morning indicated at least three structures were destroyed.
A full survey of damage had yet to be completed by Thursday night. Fire officials said 5,420 homes remained under threat, and they remained concerned about structure protection.
Devastation was apparent as KTLA drove down Pine Canyon Road, some homes burned to the ground while others are still standing. The road was lined by burnt-out vehicles and downed power lines, with blackened earth stretching as far as the eye could see.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Ronald Shaffer listed the following mandatory evacuation boundaries during a Thursday morning news conference:
- East of Ridge Route Road
- West of Lake Hughes Road
- North of Pine Canyon Road and Lake Hughes Road
- South of Highway 138
A temporary evacuation shelter has been opened at Highland High School located at 39055 25th Street West in Palmdale. Residents must stay in their cars to curb COVID-19 spread, organizers said, and small animals are welcome.
A second shelter is also available at the Castaic Sports Center in Castaic, Shaffer said.
Those with small animals can utilize Los Angeles County animal shelters located in Castaic, Lancaster and Palmdale. Large animals may be taken to the Antelope Valley fairgrounds, Shaffer said.
Several roads have been closed due to the fire, including San Francisquito Canyon Road at Stator Lane, Lake Hughes Road at Ridge Route, Old Ridge Route at SR-138, Three Points Road at SR-138, San Francisquito Canyon Road at Spunky Canyon Road and the 17000 block of northbound Elizabeth Lake Road in front of the fire station, California Highway Patrol Lt. Kathleen Toggenburger said.
The fire was first reported about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday near Lake Hughes Road just north of Warm Springs. The blaze quickly grew to 10,000 acres before slowing down during the overnight hours.
More than 1,000 firefighters from the Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles County and cooperating agencies are battling the blaze, along with three helicopters and five water tenders.
Officials estimate the fire will be contained by Sept. 2.
The cause of the fire remains unknown.