By Austin Dave & Jim Holt
Signal staff writers
Haz Mat crews – including a specialty unit responsible for monitoring health consequences of fires – spent more than six hours Thursday afternoon investigating a stubborn fireinvolving hazardous materials.
Flames erupted from a CalTrans storage yard in Canyon Country Thursday, prompting a large response from fire crews and a hazardous materials investigation, officials said.
The blaze broke out shortly before 11:50 a.m. in a dirt lot between the on-ramp and off-ramps to Highway 14 from and to Sierra Highway, according to County Fire Public Information Representative Joey Napoli.
By 6 p.m., fire officials reported that haz mat crews were still at the scene dealing with the blaze.
“They’re still out there. They haven’t filed a report saying what it is,” a Fire Department spokesman said.
“Health Haz Mat crews are out there as well,” he said.
The specialized unit is mandated to protect the public health and the environment throughout Los Angeles County from accidental releases and improper handling, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous materials,” according to the unit’s website.
A check with both deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station revealed information about what materials burned at the site was not relayed to the sheriff’s station.
“We don’t know what it is,” Sgt. Dan Peacock told The Signal late Thursday afternoon, noting deputies were still deployed at the site “in some capacity.”
Firefighting crews jumped on the fire the minute it was reported.
“One of our Angeles National Forest (Fire) engines came upon it right away,” said Assistant County Fire Chief Gregory Hisel.
The forest unit immediately went into a fire attack procedure, which allows arriving crews first to the incident to battle the blaze.
Fire engines rolled through thick black smoke discharging from the scene as the flames about 60 to 100 feet high roared over the lanes of the freeway entrance.
Heavy afternoon winds pushed the inferno higher. By noon flames had jumped the on-ramp lanes and ignited brush near Costco.
A water tender, which is a truck used to supply water to fire crews when a hydrant isn’t accessible, shot out the flames with a mechanical hose. Ground reinforcements aided the truck’s crew and doused those flames.
Minutes into the firefight, two yellow and red Super Scoopers and aircraft from Los Angeles County and city fire departments thundered in from Van Nuys and orbited around the scene.
Both fires were extinguished by 12:30 p.m. Crews on scene established a one-acre perimeter around the burned area after five 50-gallon plastic drums were found.
HazMat crews were dispatched to the burn zone to investigate the source of the Canyon Country storage yard fire and to identify what was in the black charred plastic containers.
The specialized team of firefighters are typically called in to probe any incidents involving unknown chemicals and materials, Napoli said.
As of 1:17 p.m., the origin of the containers remained unknown.
With strong, prevailing winds plaguing the area, fire stations across the Santa Clarita Valley plan to remain at a heightened state of readiness, Hisel said.
“It’s dry, it’s hot and it’s windy,” he said.
“That’s a bad combination, so we ask all residents to be alert, to monitor the news, and to be prepared with the Ready, Set, Go plan.”
Signal interns Briseida Holguin and Skylar Barti contributed to this report.