Progress on Lake Fire as CA sees historic wildfire season

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: Lake Fire as viewed from Lake Hughes road in Castaic 081220. Dan Watson/the Signal
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Fire officials announced Monday all residents affected by the Lake Fire in the Lake Hughes area could return home by Tuesday, as firefighters declared 65% containment of the blaze that ignited nearly two weeks ago. 

The fire grew 1,398 acres from Friday to Saturday, but it was less active and did not increase in acreage from Saturday night to Monday. To date, the fire had burned 31,089 acres, according to a morning update from the Angeles National Forest.

The Lake incident is one of more than 600 fires, of which 17 are considered major events, that California is currently battling, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday during a live broadcast, calling this year’s fire season “historic.”  

Last year, the state fought 4,292 fires that burned about 56,000 acres, while 2020 has, so far, seen 1.4 million acres burned due to 7,002 fires. 

“We’ve burned 1.2 million acres since just a week or so ago. Again, that’s 1.4 million acres to date and that’s about 200,000 acres that predated these 13-plus-thousand lighting strikes that we have experienced,” said Newsom.  

Wildfire aid is en route to California, Newsom said Monday, after President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration to support the state’s response. Trump’s declaration came a day after Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and other California representatives urged the president to provide relief. 

The governor also said the state has put together new sheltering protocols with COVID-19 safety measures in place, such as conducting health screenings and assessments before entry at any congregate shelter, physical distancing, mask requirements and the use of air purifiers. Most evacuations have so far taken place at hotels, he added. 

All evacuations lifted

By 10 a.m. Tuesday, all residents who had evacuated will be able to return, fire officials announced Monday afternoon. Residents are advised to drive safely as emergency vehicles may still be working in the area. 

Roads that remained closed as of Monday morning: Lake Hughes Road from Ridge Route Road to Deeswood Dive, Lake Hughes Road East to Parker Road, Dry Gulch Road from San Francisquito Canyon Road to Lake Hughes Road. 

The fire continues to threaten 1,329 structures, already having destroyed 12 structures and 21 outbuildings, damaging six and resulting in minor injuries for two firefighters. On Monday afternoon, an Angeles National Forest firefighter was transported to a nearby hospital for heat-related issues but was expected to be released later, according to spokesman Nathan Judy. 

The Lake Fire is holding northeast of Interstate 5 and south of Highway 138 in steep and rugged terrain, according to the Angeles National Forest. 

Firefighters are expected to focus efforts Monday on reinforcing containment lines on the southwest edge of the blaze. The northwest flank will see crews apply tactical firing operations as weather conditions allow but higher humidity may impact work, read the morning update. 

“The concern for today will be the gusty southwest winds in the afternoon with 20 to 25 mph,” Matt Mehle, an incident meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Service, said in an interview broadcast. 

Due to ground-level ozone and the smoke caused by fires throughout California, the Santa Clarita Valley has been under an air quality advisory since the Lake Fire began, with another advisory issued for Tuesday. Residents, especially children and those with underlying conditions, are advised to remain indoors or limit outdoor activity. 

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