A brush fire that burned nearly 1,500 acres and shut down Highway 14 Sunday reached 48% containment Monday evening, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
By 9 a.m. Monday, the fire had burned 1,300 acres and was at 30% containment, and by 7 p.m., the acreage reached 1,498. One firefighter was reported to have suffered minor injuries, according to a news release from the Fire Department.
“As we continue our mapping of the fire, that (acreage) is expected to grow,” Richardson said.
As of 2 p.m. Monday, residents in evacuated areas could begin repopulating and are only expected to be allowed into the area with proper identification, according to a joint press release issued by the L.A. County Fire and Sheriff’s Departments.
CalTrans was working to open all lanes of Highway 14 as of 4 p.m. Monday, though Agua Dulce Canyon Road was expected to remain closed east of the freeway and at Soledad Canyon Road, according to a social media post by the city of Santa Clarita.
Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel responded to reports of a vegetation fire near the intersection of Highway 14 and Soledad Canyon Road around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, according to Supervisor Cheryl Sims.
Warm weather and gusty 20- to 30-mph winds, quickly drove the fire, named the Soledad Fire for its proximity to Soledad Canyon Road, to 1,100 acres in a matter of hours, per the report.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies began evacuating residents between Agua Dulce Canyon Road to Briggs Road and Soledad Canyon Road to Highway 14, as of 5 p.m. Sunday, according to Lt. James Royal.
A total of about nine homes and 40 residents were under evacuation order as of Monday morning, according to officials.
“Hopefully, depending on fire behavior, we’ll be able to repopulate as soon as possible,” added L.A. County Sheriff Department Capt. Ronald Shaffer of the Palmdale station.
The American Red Cross established a temporary evacuation site Sunday evening at Victory Outreach parking lot in Palmdale, where residents were asked to remain in their vehicles due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Highway 14 was shut down in both directions from Soledad Canyon Road to Agua Dulce Canyon Road as of 3:45 p.m. Sunday and two northbound lanes remained closed Monday morning, along with both the Soledad Canyon Road onramp and Agua Dulce Canyon Road offramp.
By 4 p.m. Sunday, the fire had jumped Highway 14, as firefighters requested a second-alarm assignment and fixed-wing aircraft were also being launched, the Fire Department said in a social media post.
By 4:45 p.m., the fire had grown from 5 to 7 acres to 400, running in multiple drainages with a potential for 1,000 acres as firefighters requested a third-alarm response, according to fire officials.
More than 400 fire personnel worked through the night on the fire line to where by morning there was minimal visible fire, Richardson said.
“It’s a very tough terrain. It has steep drainages, and it brings a lot of hazards, especially operating at night,” Richardson added. “Yesterday evening, we were at 0% containment, so that just highlights all the good work and effort that occurred throughout the night.”
Increased relative humidity and lower temperatures gave firefighters a bit of relief overnight in slowing the head of the fire, per the report.
“The successes that we’ve had so far overnight last night have helped keep the fire from moving further south onto the Angeles National Forest,” added ANF Fire Chief Robert Garcia.
No structures have been reported damaged or destroyed, though 4,795 structures remained threatened Monday morning.
There is still potential for growth Monday morning as temperatures warm throughout the day where fuel and topography align, the report continued.
“There still is a huge potential out there, with the open line, the fire could start running in any direction due to the geography and topography of the land, as well when it’s aided by wind,” Richardson said.
Crews are expected to work through the day mopping up hot spots, protecting structures and building containment lines.
“Crews will be focused on establishing perimeter control around the fire to ensure we do not have increased growth in the fire,” Richardson said. “The challenge is the fact that it can be hot and dry today. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid to high 90s, and we’re embracing that afternoon wind components that drove this fire yesterday to the acreage we have provided.”
More than 357 fire personnel remain on the scene battling the fire, with 35 engines, nine hand crews, two water tenders, along with helicopters and fixed-wing air tankers, with assistance from CalFire, L.A. Fire Department, Angeles National Forest and other cities.
California Highway Patrol, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, Bureau of Land Management and Caltrans personnel are also assisting.
Smoke from the fire burning has also caused unhealthy air quality in the SCV and San Gabriel Mountains, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
“It is difficult to tell where smoke, ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of these particles in the air, so we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy,” Dr. Muntu Davis, a L.A. County health officer, said in a prepared statement Monday. “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. These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults, and people with heart or lung diseases.”
L.A. County Department of Public Health officials recommend avoiding unnecessary outdoor exposure and limiting physical exertion, such as exercise, both indoors or outdoors.
Children and those with sensitive conditions, such as heart disease, asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases, should follow these recommendations and stay indoors as much as possible, even in areas where smoke, soot, or ash cannot be seen, or there is no smell of smoke, per Public Health.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Richardson.