By Emily Alvarenga & Caleb Lunetta
Signal Staff Writers
Firefighters battled a brush fire in Castaic Wednesday afternoon that prompted evacuations of nearby homes and businesses by the evening, as it had grown to approximately 650 acres with 25% containment.
All evacuations were lifted at 10 p.m., including those for north and west of West Hills Drive, north of Iron Village Drive, north and west of Tesoro Del Valle, north of Copper Hill Drive, Rye Canyon, Bellows Court, Via Patina and Platinum Court areas. Firefighters also declared the blaze’s “forward progress” was stopped.
The Red Cross announced it would be helping those evacuated and in need of lodging, asking those seeking assistance to contact them via their social media account, calling 323-374-3525 or at their email at [email protected]. The Castaic Animal Shelter would be taking in animals needing evacuation as well.
The brush fire was first reported on the 29300 block of The Old Road shortly before 1:30 p.m., Fire Department spokesman Henry Narvaez said.
The first firefighters to arrive found what appeared to be a 1-acre fire, creeping uphill in light to medium fuel, Narvaez added.
The fire had grown to 5 acres by 2:40 p.m. before jumping to 30 acres a half-hour later, which prompted a second-alarm assignment and additional resources to be dispatched, according to Fire Department Supervisor Franklin Lopez.
Within a matter of minutes, the blaze had reportedly increased to 50 acres, prompting a third-alarm assignment, according to fire officials.
By 6 p.m., the fire had grown to 460 acres and 0% containment, according to officials at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
Road closures were also announced for West Hills Drive from Iron Village Drive to northern Copperhill Drive.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kristen Stewart said firefighters were battling the fire in “pretty dry” conditions, with 8% humidity and gusting winds up to 16 mph from the north.
The fire, dubbed the North Fire, was initially burning toward a dozer line, which is a fire break that firefighters had put in the area to slow the fire down, Narvaez added.
While around 80 firefighters had been dispatched to the fire, because it was burning in and around an area where the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad trains and practices, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft did most of the early firefighting for safety reasons, according to Narvaez.
“That’s the issue we have,” said Narvaez, in reference to the fire being in and around an area with possible live ordnance. “We’ve been advised that they rather not have firefighters go in that viciity if we didn’t need to.”
Narvaez described the circumstances as a “setback,” but that both ground and air units are adapting accordingly.
There had been no official word if any ordnance had gone off or injuries occurred by mid-afternoon, Narvaez added.
Both city of Santa Clarita and sheriff’s officials asked commuters to avoid the area to allow for emergency vehicles to proceed through.