More than 100 lightning strikes fueled a massive wildfire in the Lake Hughes area of the Angeles National Forest Saturday as the blaze scorched nearly 28 square miles, officials said.
Thousands of structures remain threatened by the so-called Lake Fire after it destroyed 12 structures and 21 outbuildings, according to an update the Los Angeles County Fire Department issued at 7 p.m.
Firefighters worked through triple-digit temperatures, sometimes facing steep, rugged terrain as poor weather conditions complicated their efforts throughout the day, officials said.
The lightning came amid heavy rain and a flash flood warning in the region and spread the Lake Fire while “generating several large-scale fires,” according to the Fire Department. Containment remained at 12% throughout the day while acreage rose.
By Saturday evening, the blaze charred 17,862 acres, or about 27.9 square miles, officials said. That is over 3,000 more acres from an update the agency gave 10 hours earlier.
Several communities in the Lake Hughes area remain under evacuation orders, and the wildfire continues to threaten a total of 4,570 structures by the evening, the Fire Department said.
An evening update from the agency described “gusty” winds and nearby thunderstorms as major troubling factors, with relative humidity levels at 13% to 20%. Sky Cornell, a Fire Department spokesman, said the “erratic” weather conditions made it difficult to get the blaze under control.
“This afternoon had a predicted storm cell, which can cause very erratic behavior and lightning in some cases,” Cornell said. “This can be of great concern in conditions as these when the temperature is so hot and the humidity is so low.”
The National Weather Service in Los Angeles has warned of more potential lightning and thunder, which can worsen already difficult fire conditions and even start new blazes. Fire risks including dry lightning are forecast through Wednesday.
With hot, dry and windy conditions expected to persist, authorities said the following communities remain under evacuation orders:
- Lake Hughes Road, west of Pine Canyon and north of Dry Gulch Road
- East of Ridge Route Road
- West of Lake Hughes Road and Fire Station 78
- North of Pine Canyon and Lake Hughes Road
- South of State Route 138
The following roads were still closed Saturday evening:
- San Francisquito Canyon Road from Stater Lane to Spunky Canyon
- Three Points Road from Highway 138 to Pine Canyon
- Old Ridge Route from Highway 138 to Pine Canyon
- Lake Hughes Road from Ridge Route Road to Pine Canyon
Evacuations and road closures remained the same throughout Saturday.
The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Highland High School at 39055 25th St. West in Palmdale. The Castaic Animal Care Center at 31044 Charlie Canyon Road in Castaic is taking in animals. The Antelope Valley Fairgrounds at 2551 W. Avenue H in Lancaster is only accepting large animals.
Some 1,700 personnel from the Angeles National Forest, L.A. County and other agencies have responded to the incident since the blaze broke out amid mid-90s temperatures and gusty winds around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday near Lake Hughes Road, just north of Warm Springs. The blaze soon prompted mandatory evacuation orders.
Throughout Saturday afternoon, crews were being mostly positioned in the northwestern edges of the blaze, where flare-ups tore through the area Friday, Cornell said.
According to the Fire Department, overnight temperatures are forecast to be about 70 to 80 degrees with humidity levels of 35% to 50%. That’s compared to the much lower humidity and temperatures of about 100 to 107 degrees that firefighters faced earlier in the day.
Officials have not reported any injuries to firefighters, and what caused the blaze remains under investigation. An excessive heat warning for the area is effective through 9 p.m. Monday.
Two other fires ignited in Southern California this week: one that erupted in the foothills above Azusa but has since moved away from homes and another in Corona that has been at least halfway contained.