Lake Fire held at 800 acres

A picnic table and an outbuilding burned by the Lake Fire sit just off the northern shore of the eastern arm of Castaic Lake on Monday, June 19, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal


After three days of battling a brush fire near Castaic Lake in triple digit temperatures, firefighters managed to contain the Lake Fire to 78 percent, halting its advance and holding it to about 800 burned acres.

Despite a small flare up Monday afternoon which prompted swift response from Angeles National Forest firefighters, the Lake Fire remained at 60 percent contained, with no new updates from officials as of end of the day on Monday.

At 6 p.m., ANF officials reported containment of the fire to be 78 percent.

“Four helicopters are currently working on that spot,” ANF spokesman Nathan Judy said, noting water-dropping helicopters knocked down the flare up quickly after it started.

Acreage burned by the fire was initially reported to be 1,000 acres but was reassessed to 800 acres once the smoke cleared.

Smoke has lingered over the lake area since the fire started Saturday afternoon.

“On the first day, there was a lot of smoke and we couldn’t see the perimeter,” Judy told The Signal Monday morning.

The number of firefighters battling the brush fire was reduced Monday to 380 from 465 deployed initially on Saturday.

The number of structures burned still stood at two outbuildings by Monday afternoon.

Asked about the heat, Judy said: “Our firefighters are used to working in hot temperatures, especially when they’re around the fire.

“But, now, since they’re not next to the fire, it won’t be as hot as it was,” he said.

Day One

The Lake Fire began near Castaic Lake shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday, moving at a moderate rate of spread by

2:15 p.m.

One of the initial challenges firefighters faced was trying to find an access point from which to tackle the fire.

Around 2:49 p.m., the blaze moved from Los Angeles County Fire territory into the Angeles National Forest.

At least three water-dropping helicopters to help with the fight.

Within 80 minutes of first hearing of the fire, however, the Lake Fire burned 175 acres, said Captain Ron Singleton of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

By just after 4 p.m., the fire had burned more than 500 acres and was at zero percent containment despite fixed-wing aircraft called to the scene.

In all, three helicopters from Los Angeles County Fire and fixed-winged aircraft from Cal Fire had dominated the firefighting efforts.

By late Saturday afternoon, the firefight was predominantly being fought by aircraft according to Fire Inspector Richard Licon, who described the fire at one point as “moving very quickly.”

At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, officials were reporting “zero containment at which point, the air assault intensified.

Four helicopters, five fixed-winged aircraft and one lead air attack are all working together to tackle the blaze. Water and fire retardant were dropped on the fire.

As the sun went down on the first day of firefighting, the Lake Fire had burned 550 acres and was not contained but firefighters got a break.

“The wind is cooperating with us right now,” Licon said shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday.

Firefighters on Saturday were even transported by boat so they could fight the fire in the grass areas.

They battled throughout the night Saturday, emerging Sunday to report the fire had burned 1,000 acres and was 10 percent contained.

Day Two

The ranks of firefighting personnel grew to more than 450 and on Sunday morning found themselves busy putting out “hotspots.”

“There are hotspots burning,” Licon said early Sunday.

“It moved through the shorter grass pretty quickly. There was old fuel that hadn’t burned for years. Later in the afternoon. there was some pretty heavy columns of smoke that burned, that was heavier, thicker brush.”

After a day of working in triple digit heat, Licon expressed concern over a second full day in the same heat.

“It’s warming up already,” he told The Signal Sunday. “The fatigue of our firefighters is a big deal because they’re hiking into that steeper terrain.”

One firefighter suffered a minor laceration injury and was taken to the hospital.

By mid-Sunday morning, firefighters were working to tackle the east side of the fire as winds remained calm at four to eight miles per hour. The west side of Upper Castaic Lake is still open for recreational use.

“We have a (bull)dozer line to the north,” Licon said. “We’re working off the (bull)dozer line back down toward the lake.”

The exponential fire growth that occurred on Saturday was partly due to the tall grass that thrived in the recent rains.

“Those fuels burned very quickly,” Nathan Judy said.

Staff writer Nikolas Samuels and multimedia journalists Samie Gebers and Austin Dave contributed to this story.

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