UPDATED AS OF 9:00 A.M. FRIDAY
By Signal Staff
Editor’s note: Coverage of the Saddleridge Fire is continuing this morning and a new, updated story for Friday will be posted this morning. All schools in the Castaic, Newhall, Sulphur Springs, Saugus and William S. Hart school districts are closed today (Friday). Freeway closures remain in place due to the fire and motorists are advised to seek alternate routes.
The wind-blown Saddleridge fire quickly grew from 15-20 acres to more than 4,700 acres — with zero percent containment — Thursday night into Friday morning, prompting evacuations in the Sylmar, Granada Hills and Porter Ranch areas as an unknown number of homes burned overnight.
L.A. City Fire announced one person was killed last night, a civilian, who sustained a heart attack, was tended to by paramedics, but succumbed to injury at the hospital. One firefighter sustained a minor eye injury, also.
The evacuation area, which includes much of Sylmar, remains unchanged, as of 9 a.m., per city fire.
Over 1,000 firefighters have been assigned to the incident. The super scoopers and Sky Crane are in operation this morning, according to city fire officials, who also reported at least 25 structures have been destroyed.
The fire was still burning just south of the Santa Clarita Valley into the early hours of Friday morning, and homes were burning in the northern San Fernando Valley. The California Highway Patrol early Friday morning had received reports of one flank of the fire approaching State Route 14 near Placerita Canyon Road.
The Los Angeles City Fire Department reported at approximately 11:30 p.m. that the original Sylmar blaze had hopped Interstate 5 and started a new fire, which was burning west of the freeway near Balboa Boulevard, but remaining south of the SCV. Mandatory evacuations were called for the entire Porter Ranch community shortly after 2 a.m. and the fire was expected to continue moving westward toward Ventura County.
Freeway closures due to the fires impacted I-5, I-210 and State Route 14. As of 4 a.m., televised reports showed active fire burning in the Newhall Pass on what appeared to be a commercial property near Balboa and Foothill Boulevards.
The California Highway Patrol reported a SigAlert just after midnight for the I-5 in both directions — northbound just south of the 210 and southbound at Calgrove Boulevard — all lanes closed for an unknown duration. Subsequently, the 14 freeway was also closed between Newhall and the SR14/I-5 interchange.
Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station cautioned that the fire and resulting freeway closures would have an impact on the Friday morning commute into and out of the SCV.
“We’ve identified some areas that are closed in and out of Santa Clarita,” Lewis said in a televised news conference just before 3 a.m. in the San Fernando Valley.
“So, we know the morning commute is going to be coming up. There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to want to leave Santa Clarita or get into Santa Clarita for work,” Lewis said. “We ask that the community be patient as they are leaving and coming in and out of Santa Clarita.”
Lewis said, at the time, the southbound 14 freeway was closed by the CHP at Newhall Avenue, but the northbound lanes were open. With the I-5 also closed, he said, southbound commuters would need to take State Route 126 toward the U.S. 101 to head to points south.
“So, we ask as everyone wakes up and realizes their commute is going to be a little longer, please be patient, please work with us, with law enforcement and work with all of our counterparts here to make sure everyone is safe and everyone gets out to work.”
The incident response was led by the L.A. City Fire Department, due to where it started, but county fire officials were also out there Thursday.
“We have units out there assisting,” said Supervisor Melanie Flores of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, who said there were no structures threatened in the county’s response area.
L.A. County Fire was assisting in the fight against the brush fire, which was aided by high winds, with “an unknown number of homes potentially threatened,” according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Television reports later showed multiple homes being burned in the northern San Fernando Valley, including some in Porter Ranch.
Former Santa Clarita Valley resident Olivia Galindo, who now lives in Sylmar, said it wasn’t the first time her family has been impacted by fire.
“We went to go drive around looking at whatever everybody’s looking at when the fire was way over there right off the (210) freeway. My son said, ‘Mom, I think we’re being evacuated.’ But he wasn’t sure. If all our windows are closed, we’re not sure what’s going on. So, I came home and my son said, ‘Yeah, they flashed the light on our house.’”
Galindo said the experience was reminiscent of her past experience living in the SCV.
“Two years ago we lived in Santa Clarita off of Golden Valley and Via Princessa, and got evacuated from there. In July 2016, I think it was that year.”
This time, she said, her family was preparing to evacuate, but early Friday morning they had not let left their home.
“I’m not leaving until I have to,” Galindo said. “So, my son has his car loaded up and I just put pictures in my car and I have my suitcase in the house and just waiting.”
With reports from Perry Smith, Tammy Murga and Tim Whyte.