Lake Fire burns more than 21,000 acres; county declares local emergency

The Lake Fire burns along Pine Canyon Road on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Rick McClure/For The Signal
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With the air in the Santa Clarita Valley thick with smoke from two nearby fires Tuesday morning, fire officials announced the Lake Fire had grown to 21,115 acres, while containment remained at 38%.

Overnight, firefighters continued to make steady progress on the blaze, tackling the steep, rugged terrain that continues to challenge them as they work to build containment lines. One firefighter has been reported to have incurred minor injuries battling the fire.

The blaze, dubbed the Lake Fire after it began in the Lake Hughes area last Wednesday, continued to threaten 4,570 structures Monday, while no additional structures had been damaged. In total, at least 12 structures and 21 outbuildings had been destroyed, along with three structures damaged. 

Angeles National Forest and L.A. County Fire Department officials remain in unified command, with assistance from a federal incident management team. 

The fire continues burning northwest toward fuels that haven’t burned in 100 years, as an extreme heat warning remains in effect until Saturday, with the National Weather Service forecasting high temperatures ranging between 102-111 degrees, along with high pressure and dry conditions, which fire officials expect to bring critical fire weather to the region. Full containment of the fire is not expected until Sept. 2.

The Lake Fire burns along Pine Canyon Road on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Rick McClure/For The Signal

Nearly 2,000 firefighters remained assigned to the blaze Tuesday, including 224 fire engines, 28 hand crews, 39 bulldozers, 26 water tenders and 13 helicopters.

Evacuations remain in effect for Lake Hughes Road, west of Pine Canyon and north of Dry Gulch Road; east of Ridge Route Road; west of Lake Hughes Road and Fire Station 78; north of Pine Canyon and Lake Hughes Road; and south of Highway 138. 

3 Points Road from Highway 138 to Pine Canyon, Old Ridge Route from Highway 138 to Pine Canyon, Pine Canyon from Ridge Route Road to Lake Hughes Road, and Dry Gulch Road from San Francisquito Canyon Road to Lake Hughes Road remain closed. 

In addition, both upper and lower Castaic lakes remain closed through the duration of the fire, as firefighters are using the lake and surrounding areas as a base camp. 

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday in a special meeting to ratify the proclamation of a local emergency for the Lake Fire, unanimously passing a motion expected to enable the county to more effectively respond to the blaze, accelerating the procurement of vital supplies, mutual aid, and potentially obtain reimbursement and assistance from the state and federal government.

“The Lake Fire has been fast-moving and tenacious, fueled by unforgiving terrain and burned 10,000 acres in just under four hours with minimal wind conditions,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th district includes the SCV, said during the meeting. “I’m grateful for the tireless hard work and dedication of the firefighters in the Los Angeles County Fire Department, along with the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire. We have many days ahead, and I know for them their efforts to gain control in the Lake Fire is front and center, and we appreciate their support.”

Poor air quality and a layer of smoke can be seen from Ermine Street looking south, with Golden Valley Road foreground above the SCV Senior Center on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

The same day, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency due to the fires and extreme weather conditions. 

“We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions,” Newsom said in a prepared statement. “California and its federal and local partners are working in lockstep to meet the challenge and remain vigilant in the face of continued dangerous weather conditions.”

“The Lake Fire has been fast-moving and tenacious, fueled by unforgiving terrain and burned 10,000 acres in just under four hours with minimal wind conditions,” Barger said. “I’m grateful for the tireless hard work and dedication of the firefighters in the Los Angeles County Fire Department, along with the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire. We have many days ahead, and I know for them their efforts to gain control in the Lake Fire is front and center, and we appreciate their support.”

The motion, which passed unanimously, is expected to enable the county to more effectively respond to the blaze, accelerating the procurement of vital supplies, mutual aid, and potentially obtain reimbursement and assistance from the state and federal government.

A number of smoke advisories have been issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, urging residents in the SCV to take precautions, such as limiting outdoor activity and remaining inside as much as possible, as unhealthy air quality could be damaging to vulnerable groups.

“Children and people who have air-quality-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,” officials said in a news release.

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