UPDATE: Elsmere Fire: Forward progress stopped, some roads reopen

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel battle flames from the Elsmere Fire between Highway 14 and Sierra Highway in Newhall on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

By Emily Alvarenga and Tammy Murga

Firefighters stopped forward progress of a 130-acre brush fire in Newhall that shut down parts of Highway 14 and Interstate 5 Monday afternoon, and prompted a brief evacuation order. 

The fast-moving blaze was previously reported at 200 acres, but firefighters later updated its size after further assessment from the air. First responders on the scene reported 30% containment, and that the fire had stopped spreading just before 4 p.m. 

Bobby Block / The Signal

No structures were threatened but evacuation orders were briefly issued. Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies began evacuating residents between Dockweiler Drive and Valle del Oro just after 2 p.m. as the fire had jumped Highway 14, per sheriff’s officials.

About an hour later, the order was lifted and no evacuations were in place after 3 p.m., according to sheriff’s spokeswoman Shirley Miller. 

“We did call our Search and Rescue team to be on hand. They did assist in earlier evacuations but there are none active at this time. It remains a monitoring situation,” she said. 

A SigAlert was issued at 2 p.m., shutting down all northbound lanes of Highway 14 at Interstate 5 for an unknown duration due to visibility issues. The southbound I-5 transition to northbound 14 closed just before 3 p.m. and reopened at around 6:30 p.m. The right lane was expected to remain closed overnight from Placerita Canyon Road to Newhall Avenue, according to Caltrans officials. The northbound lanes of the 14, which also closed, were expected to reopen along with the 5 freeway connectors.

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel battle flames from the Elsmere Fire between Highway 14 and Sierra Highway in Newhall on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Sierra Highway also shut down between Newhall Avenue and Golden Valley Road. Officials advised the public to avoid the area. 

Fire Department personnel responded to reports of flames coming from the Elsmere Canyon hiking trail, near northbound Highway 14 at Newhall Avenue, around 1:30 p.m., according to Supervisor Leslie Lua.

Firefighters arrived on the scene at 1:40 p.m., and reported a 3-acre brush fire that was running uphill. By 2:15 p.m. the blaze had grown to approximately 100 acres as the fire had jumped Highway 14 and by 2:30 p.m. a third alarm response had been requested with help from the Angeles National Forest, Lua added.

Nearby apartment buildings were evacuated, according to Miller. Among the evacuees was Kayla Thomas and her 4-year-old daughter, who opted to sit in her vehicle on Sierra Highway — after not knowing where to go after the initial order was issued. 

Bobby Block / The Signal

“I grabbed my daughter, her stuffed animal and the keys — that’s it,” she said. “If it had burned our house, we would have lost everything, but that’s OK because we’re safe. Thank God.”

Other residents found themselves stuck on the road as the fire began to spread, including Tamer Ibarra and Kyle Baldwin. 

“I can’t get a hold of my wife, she was at home with my son,” said Ibarra, who said that while he did not live in the evacuated area, his home’s close proximity to the affected area worried him. 

Baldwin headed to work via Highway 14, and then encountered the blaze and was told to turn around by CHP officers. “You always read about these kinds of things happening, but never think they’re gonna happen to you. I’m just glad I’m safe,” he said.

Dubbed the Elsmere Fire, this blaze follows a handful of others, including the Castaic Fire and Post Fire in Gorman, that firefighters battled over the weekend. 

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Flames from the Elsmere Fire crest a hillside as the blaze moves toward Placerita Canyon Road in Newhall on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

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