11K-acre Lake Hughes fire reaches 5% containment

A helicopter continues the aerial battle against the Lake Fire after dark Wednesday night. Cory Rubin/For The Signal
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By Emily Alvarenga and Tammy Murga

After a busy Wednesday night, firefighters declared 5% containment of the 11,000-acre Lake Fire in the Lake Hughes area by Thursday evening. 

Three of the 5,420 structures threatened were declared destroyed. 

The day’s slightly lower temperatures and moisture from tropical storm Elida off Mexico’s northwestern coast helped crews progress on the aggressive and fast-moving blaze that erupted around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, near the intersection of Lake Hughes Road and Elizabeth Lake Road. 

Friday is expected to bring “near critical” fire weather conditions with warmer temperatures and as “gusty onshore winds could combine with warm and dry conditions in place,” according to incident updates from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Angeles National Forest. 

“It’s hard to predict we will get more growth and which way (the fire) will go,” said Seneca Smith, battalion chief with the Angeles National Forest, during an afternoon update broadcasted via social media. 

By 3 p.m. Thursday, the winds in the vicinity of the fire had begun to increase, with gusts traveling from the south to southwest at 10 to 17 mph, while more widespread gusts up to 25 mph were expected later in the afternoon, according to National Weather Service officials.

A morning incident report called the blaze “extreme and aggressive fire behavior,” which was influenced by the steep topography, where the heat from the fire was able to create its own wind system, which became trapped in the canyons and created a firestorm.

The #LakeFire grew to 1,000 acres within 45 minutes of the initial report. The fire as seen from Golden Valley Road and Highway 14. Dan Watson / The Signal.

“A lot of good work (was done) last night with hand crews and bulldozers to get what we call anchor points established for perimeter control, but most of this fire has potential to line up with topography and line with the wind and make another significant run, wherever it’s going to find the fuel and wherever it’s gonna line up with that topography,” Garcia added.

More than 1,000 firefighters were assigned to the blaze Thursday, and objectives included keeping the fire north of Castaic Lake, south of Highway 138, east of Red Rock Mountain and west of Tule Ridge.

Red Cross personnel also remained vigilant Thursday in receiving any residents who had evacuated as a result of the fire. At least two sought shelter at some point at Highland High School and one had inquired assistance at the Castaic Sports Complex. 

“We have a place for them to stay and rest and we will provide snacks, and if they’re here for meal time, three meals can be provided during the duration of the operation,” said Jerome Thierry with the Red Cross in Castaic, adding that they will remain open until at least Friday but can stay for as long as necessary.  

The fire, which resulted in evacuations of residents in multiple areas, including east of Ridge Route Road and north of Pine Canyon and Lake Hughes Road, kept firefighters occupied throughout Wednesday night providing structure defense both on the ground and with aerial support. 

“This will be a major fire for several days,” Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Robert Garcia added. “The current weather that we started with this morning has helped buy us some time to get some relief crews out there and start developing some perimeter control anchor points in numerous points along this fire.” 

Road closures in effect Thursday evening included San Francisquito Canyon Road from Stater Lane to Spunky Canyon, 3 Points Road and Old Ridge Route from Highway 138 to Pine Canyon Road. 

Firefighters reported that the Lake Fire was actively burning in an area where the fire history is nearly 100 years old. 

While the cause of this fire remains under investigation, L.A. County Fire Department Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby reminded the public to be extremely cautious and careful, as 90% of fires are caused by humans.

— Signal Staff Writer Caleb Lunetta contributed to this report.

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