Newhall brush fire prompts evacuations

Hand crews unload from a fire helicopter at McGrath Elementary School in Newhall on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Dan Watson/The Signal
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By Emily Alvarenga & Caleb Lunetta 

Signal Senior Staff Writers 

Evacuations were called, but no buildings were lost Thursday as structures were threatened by a fast-moving brush fire in Newhall and winds ignited spot fires ahead of the blaze.

Forward progress stopped on the main blaze was called at 4:23 p.m. at approximately 3 acres, as firefighters continued to work on a spot fire burning nearby on Placerita Canyon Road, which had the potential for 2 acres, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Supervisor Marvin Lim. The spot fire was then halted at 4:38 p.m. at 1.5 acres, Lim added.

The fire was first reported shortly before 3:30 p.m. near the intersection of Valle Del Oro and Newhall Avenue, Lim said. Units arriving on the scene reported a less-than-quarter-acre blaze, running uphill in light fuel.

Smoke fills an apartment complex as firefighters work to control a nearby blaze in Newhall on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Caleb Lunetta/The Signal

Uphill from the fire was an apartment complex, with Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies calling for evacuations of those nearby structures on Grape Lily Circle and Val Del Oro, while California Highway Patrol officers assisted in shutting down the road to incoming traffic, according to Officer Tony Polizzi, with the CHP Traffic Management Office, and Sgt. Dmitry Barkon, of the SCV Sheriff’s Station. 

By 4 p.m., the fire had reportedly grown to 1.5 acres, while some residents in the apartment building closest to the fire were asked to shelter in place, and those who live closest to the fire were being asked to evacuate. 

Hand Crews at McGrath Elementary School head towards the fire on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Dan Watson/The Signal

Some of those who stayed were watching as firefighters worked to control the blaze, as others were seen leaving with packed bags over their shoulders.

Dry fuels resulted in embers that were carried by the wind, igniting spot fires ahead of the main fire, Fire Department Air Operations officials noted of the incident, as helicopters worked to slow the spread of these new fires, while ground firefighters worked to find safe access. 

Around 5:45 p.m., a roof fire was reported on the 24100 block of Grape Lily Circle, but firefighters were quickly able to mitigate the fire from spreading, according to fire officials. 

Nearby resident Bailey Stoll was sitting in her room when she heard helicopters, alerting her of the nearby blaze.

“I looked outside and sure enough it’s all orange smoky,” Stoll said, adding that it’s almost a normal occurrence in the area. “It feels like there’s a fire here every couple of weeks — all the time.”

Smoke and flames from a brush fire burning in Newhall approach nearby homes on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Caleb Lunetta/The Signal

Similarly, nearby resident Israr Khan smelled smoke and heard the commotion from his apartment, which he said is “very close” to the approaching flames.

“There’s just a lot of apartments close by, so (it seems) like they called in a ‘code red,’” Khan said of the sheer number of firefighters responding to the blaze.

Hector Ybarra, a security specialist with a patrol service in the area, also recognized the prevalence of fires in the area, which he said could be due to the nearby homeless encampments or the toss of a cigarette.

Smoke fills an apartment complex as firefighters work to control a nearby blaze in Newhall on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Caleb Lunetta/The Signal

“The dry brush is really easy to spark up,” Ybarra added.

Roads in the immediate vicinity were closed as crews remained on the scene for several hours “mopping up” the blaze, per fire officials. 

There was no reported structure damage, nor any injuries reported as a result of the incident, fire officials said.  

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