Brush fire breaks out behind College of the Canyons

A Los Angeles County Fire helicopter makes a water drop to douse flames on a hillside off of Valencia Boulevard near College of the Canyons on Thursday, August 31, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

A small brush fire broke out behind Cougar Stadium on College of the Canyons’ (COC) campus Thursday afternoon, burning four acres of brush and damaging 10 cars on COC’s campus.

Named the “Canyon Incident,” the quarter-acre brush fire broke out at 3 p.m. and grew to approximately 7.6 acres near West Valencia Boulevard and North Tourney Road.

“The fire was 7.6 acres,” said North Region Safety and Training Capt. Thomas Perry with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.  “We believe it was started by lightning, but that is still under investigation and still undetermined, but we’re leaning toward lightning with the cell that came through.”

Firefighters and helicopters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department responded to the incident, and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) issued a SigAlert for the northbound Valencia Boulevard off ramp from the 5 freeway.

About an hour later, at 4:18 p.m., the brush fire was extinguished.

Although the thunderstorms and rainfall helped with the crews’ mop-up of the fire, it did not help extinguish the Canyon Fire’s flames.

“When there’s open flame, rain really doesn’t help us that much so the troops on the ground really did a good job of putting in an aggressive hose lay with our air resources,” he said.

No structures were threatened by the Canyon Fire, but 12 cars in the campus’ nearby parking lot, along Stadium Way, caught fire or sustained damage as a result of the blaze, according to Capt. Perry.

“Some of them sustained significant damage to the front of the vehicle where they were parked into the brush, but we had two engine companies assigned and they kept the damage to a minimum,” Capt. Perry said.  “It looks like most of the cars will be salvageable.”

Jacob Lopez, a pitcher for COC’s baseball team, said his 1996 Honda Accord was one of the cars damaged in the fire.  He lost all of school books and possibly a laptop in the flames.

“Right when our [baseball] practice ended we ran up there and saw the fire right when it started,” Lopez said.  “It blew up my car… It’s pretty bad.”

Now the concern for firefighters is removing trees that were burned or significantly impacted during the fire.

“Some of those trees will need to be taken down because right now,” Capt. Perry said.  “They are a fall hazard for any pedestrian under those trees.”

During the blaze, COC staff evacuated children and staff from Early Childhood Education (ECE) and moved them to the Performing Arts Center as a precautionary measure, according to the college’s Twitter.

The college also advised its students, faculty and staff to evacuate from the area near the Canyon Fire when it first broke out.

“Anyone on or near the Stadium or the softball field needs to evacuate immediately.  There is a fire near the Cross Country trail,” the college wrote on its Twitter page.

At 4:45 p.m., COC canceled all of its evening classes.  It advised those leaving classes from the Valencia campus to be aware that traffic on the surrounding streets was heavy.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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