Strong forecast winds prompt ‘Extreme Red Flag Warning’ as Tick Fire cleanup continues

A home that burned on Sugar Loaf Court in the Tick Fire. Dan Watson/The Signal

As firefighters look for flare-ups inside more than 4,600 charred acres on the northeast side of the Santa Clarita Valley, they’re bracing themselves for wind conditions worse than the ones that whipped up the Tick Fire, which destroyed two dozen homes.

Conditions that prompted a red flag warning Thursday have now prompted officials with the National Weather Service to issue “an extreme red flag” warning from Tuesday night to this Thursday.

“Because of the strong northeast winds and relatively low humidity, if a fire breaks out, you’re looking at extreme fire behavior,” Meteorologist Joe Sirard at the Oxnard weather office said Monday afternoon.

An extreme red flag warning goes into effect at 11 p.m. on Tuesday and remains in place until 6 p.m. Thursday, he said.

Strongest winds

Winds will pick up Tuesday night, with the strongest winds expected about 4 a.m. Wednesday, Sirard said.

Sustained winds from Tuesday to Thursday are expected to be 25 and 40 mph.

“Gusts of 65 mph will be possible, with isolated gusts of 75 mph in the hills above Santa Clarita,” Sirard said. 

On Monday, more than 500 firefighters remained on the scene of the Tick Fire with additional resources available should they need them, fire officials revealed in their morning update of the fire announced at 7 a.m. Monday.

“Firefighters continue to perform spot checks throughout the burned areas to prevent any chance of rekindle with a change in the weather,” they said in their update.

They looked for opportunities to build containment lines.

As firefighters combed 4,615 charred acres, 40,000 homeowners displaced by mandatory evacuations were allowed to return to their homes, as of Sunday at 6 p.m.

While no residents were reported hurt during the fire, four firefighters suffered unspecified injuries.

24 homes destroyed

Two dozen homes were destroyed by the fire out of 29 structures totalled. Additionally, 38 homes were damaged out of 44 structures damaged in total.

With the evacuations lifted, the evacuation center at College of the Canyons wrapped up its operations there at noon Sunday, with the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region announcing it was closing the temporary shelter.

Help, however, is still being extended to those affected by the fire.

Officials with the city of Santa Clarita announced late Monday afternoon that they, in partnership with the County of Los Angeles, will open a local assistance center for residents affected by the Tick Fire. 

The center will be at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway, and is scheduled to be open Wednesday at 10 a.m., operating daily between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. until Nov. 4.

Assistance center

“By working with our partners at Los Angeles County, we are able to bring in the organizations that our affected residents need at this time,” Mayor Marsha McLean was quoted as saying in the news release.

“I urge anyone who requires assistance following this destructive fire to take advantage of the local assistance center. Some of the organizations who will be taking part include the city of Santa Clarita, the Red Cross, the L.A. County Office of the Assessor, Public Works, the Departments of Mental Health and Public Health, the Department of Motor Vehicles, Animal Care and Control and many more,” she was quoted as saying.

Help offered is expected to include: 

• Information on property cleanup, repair and rebuilding.

• Filing insurance claims.

• Replacing records lost during the wildfire, such as driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

As residents return to their homes, county public health officials issued tips on their cleanup effort.

Cleanup tips

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reminded residents that “while ash from wildfires is relatively non-toxic and like ash that may be found in a home fireplace, it may be irritating to the skin, nose and throat.”

They pointed out in a notice issued Monday morning that “ash, dust and debris — particularly from burned buildings — may contain toxic and cancer-causing chemicals, including asbestos, arsenic and lead.”

“As residents begin to return home and start cleaning after being evacuated, they are more likely to come in contact with ash and soot, especially in areas that were close to or damaged by fire,” Dr. Muntu Davis, health officer for the county, was quoted as saying in a notice issued by the department Monday.

“We ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy. If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health,” he said. 

“These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults, and people with heart or lung diseases,” he added.

Officials with the American Lung Association issued tips to homeowners affected by the fire. 

  • Ensure you have all medicines and instructions you need in one easily accessible place, and create a travel pack that includes: An extra written prescription in case your medication is lost or destroyed, insurance card and health-care provider contact information.
  • Remain indoors and avoid breathing smoke, ashes and other pollution in the area. Keep doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and use air conditioners on recirculation mode only. 
  • Do not depend on a dust mask. Ordinary dust masks will not help. Masks with a HEPA filter or an N-95 will filter out the damaging fine particles in wildfire smoke, but ensure that they fit your face, and note that masks may not fit children. Consult with your doctor before using a mask, especially if you have lung disease, as it may be difficult to use.

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