SCV residents flee homes as North Fire spreads

A family prepares to evacuate as the North Fire approached their home on West Hills Drive in Valencia on Wednesday, April, 28, 2021. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal
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By Caleb Lunetta and Emily Alvarenga

Signal Staff Writers

Ash and water from firefighting aircraft fell on the families of Castaic and northern Valencia, as many had to flee or defend their homes after the North Fire endangered their streets and cul de sacs Wednesday.

“I mean, we’ve had fires around here, but nothing ever this close,” said Mariana Anderson, a resident on Via Patina, where the fire came up to some homes’ yards. “It’s a little surreal because now it’s in your own backyard … they said that it probably shouldn’t come towards (us) — but a couple of the neighbors, we’ve been hosing down.”

Residents evacuate from West Hills Drive in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, 042821. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I was extremely panicked at first … before I had gotten up to my apartment, I literally texted my son … and I was like, ‘Honey, the fire is getting close to your car,’” added Carla Turnbough, a resident at an apartment complex on the 24000 block of Copper Hill Drive. “I was a little bit jokesy about it, but look how I ended up being right.”

Others said they had been surprised at how quickly the fire behaved, starting at only a few acres before quickly growing and spreading in their direction. However, they were prepared for this reality, they said.

“I think the wind shifted in our direction, and it just happened very quickly,” said Daniel Knafo, who was packing up his family and two dogs at their West Hills Drive home, as flames could be seen on the hillsides directly across the street. “We’re ready to go.”

Firefighters prepare to battle the #NorthFire from a backyard on Via Patina in Valencia on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

For some the emotion of leaving their home or having to create defensive perimeters around it was shocking new territory, while for others it was a familiar, yet still unwelcome feeling.

Don and Deborah Sherman, a couple who reside on West Hills Drive, said they had previously lived in Stevenson Ranch and experienced a fire and evacuation there. They said that experience kept them from panicking Wednesday.

“We noticed that, even though this one does look scary, that when (the previous fire) looked scary, they threw a lot of firemen, resources, there were trucks everywhere,” said Don Sherman. “So, I’m hoping that there aren’t trucks everywhere which means … they’re somewhat guiding it in the right direction.”

Flames from the North Fire are seen cresting the hillsides behind houses on West Hills Drive in Valencia on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Dan Watson/The Signal

Similarly, Brenda Hans joked that while she has lived in Santa Clarita for about 20 years and was familiar with such wildfires, her newer residence on West Hills Drive moved her closer to the flames.

“When I moved in, I was like, ‘I don’t know about that hill over there,’” she said, chuckling as she pointed to the flame-engulfed hill across the street from her home.

And while the fire continued to exhaust its fuel and resources throughout the day and well into the night, the resiliency of the firefighters and residents appeared unwavering.

Firefighters prepare to battle the #NorthFire from a backyard on Via Patina in Valencia on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

Chris Agger was one of the Via Patina residents who witnessed flames approach his back fence in full force as firefighters waited, prepared to defend his home.

“It was awesome, because now I don’t have to worry about that brush for five more years,” joked Agger, just before switching to a more somber tone. “But the firemen did a great job … thanks for the help.”

Residents evacuate from West Hills Drive in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, 042821. Dan Watson/The Signal

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