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Full containment on Sayre Fire

November 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Full containment was reached Thursday evening on the Sayre Fire that swept through Sylmar over the weekend. The blaze charred 11,262 acres and destroyed approximately 615 structures.

Residents of the devastated Oakridge Mobile Home Park in Sylmar were granted open access to the site Tuesday. The first residents to return to the park Tuesday morning were the owners those homes survived the fire. They are being allowed to bring in moving trucks and vehicles to take out as many of their belongings as they can.

All of the other residents were able to return to the site after noon. For many of the residents there is nothing left but rubble and ash. Some began sifting through the charred remains to see what they could salvage.

In all, 484 of the more than 600 mobile homes at the park burned to the ground during Saturday's firestorm. Firefighters were able to save about 125 homes, but many of them were badly damaged.

Crisis response teams and mental health officials are on hand to help the residents deal with the loss. Those who have returned so far say it is overwhelming.

"It's heartbreaking, just heartbreaking," said Oakridge resident Lisa Henaghan. "We were some of the lucky people who have some stuff that we were able to salvage, but just seeing all of the other devastation, it is really sad. It looks like a bomb hit it. It's just devastating, absolutely devastating."

"To drive in and actually see it in person when you know what it looked like before and what a beautiful, beautiful place this was," said Oakridge resident Karen Henaghan. "It was like a miniature paradise here and it made me very emotional and very very sad to see what had happened."

Many of the residents got the chance to see the devastation first hand on Monday during a bus tour of the mobile home park. Those whose homes survived were taken by police escort and given about 10 mintues to go into their homes and recover any medications and documents they weren't able to grab when they were evacuated.

Those whose homes were destroyed were not allowed to get out and actually sift through the ruins because search and rescue teams with cadaver dogs were still combing the area for potential victims. After an exhaustive search, no bodies were found.

Authorities are still trying to locate all of the residents of the Oakridge Mobile Home Park. About 166 people are still unaccounted for. The LAPD is asking for all residents to check in by calling (818) 838-9827.

The cost of the Sayre Fire damage is estimated to be $3.5 million. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued an air quality advisory, recommending precautions when outdoors in areas where there is visible smoke, soot, ash, or an odor of smoke.

All mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted for the Sayre Fire. Approximately 10,000 residents were forced to evacuate during the fire. Evacuation orders stretched from the Pacoima Canyon, across the northern border of the city of Los Angeles to Granada Hills, all the way to Reseda.

____________________________________________________________
EVACUATION CENTERS:
  • Sylmar High School, at 13050 Borden Ave. in Sylmar

ANIMAL EVACUATIONS:
  • Horses can be taken to the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center at Foothill Blvd. and Orcas Ave.
  • Other animals can be taken to Mission Animal Center at 15321 Brand Blvd. in Mission Hills
_____________________________________________________________

More than 1,100 firefighters continued to battle the blaze Sunday with 12 water-dropping helicopters and some fixed-wing aircraft. No buildings were newly threatened.

Fire officials said the Oakridge Mobile Home Park has sustained "almost total devastation," adding that streets signs in the park had been melted by flames when 80 mph winds blew through the area Saturday. The destruction of more than 600 structures forced Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency for Los Angeles County.

Officials have reported that a total of nine single-family homes and 10 commercial buildings have also been destroyed. One person was injured in the fire and treated for serious burns.

The wildfire grew rapidly Saturday after jumping the 210 and 5 freeways, forcing thousands to evacuate. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared a local emergency.

"We are at the mercy of the winds," Villaraigosa said in a news conference.

Olive View UCLA Medical Center Childcare center was destroyed in the fire. The Los Angeles County Health Department is urging staff not to bring children to the childcare center. Staff should call (213) 925-3175 to make other arrangements for childcare.

North Valley Charter Academy in Granada Hills is closed Monday, according to Kellie Jackson, the manager of operations. Additional information is available at (818) 368-1557.

Los Angeles police arrested five people Saturday on suspicion of looting in the Sylmar area, where many streets lack electricity due to burned lines.

All freeways in the area were opened Sunday.

Temperatures in the fire area Saturday were in the 90s, and wind gusts were blowing at about 50 mph. Flames pushed west to the Sesnon Fire area, which may of helped slow the wildfire, Ruda said.

The fire was reported at 10:30 p.m. Friday, and quickly flared up and burned several hillsides north of where the 118 and 210 freeways intersect at the base of the Angeles National Forest, just above Veterans Memorial County Park. About 20 fire engines responded to the fire call Friday night, according to an L.A. Fire Dept. spokesperson.

Water-dropping helicopters had to deal with violent Santa Ana winds amplified by the foothills terrain, slowing down the pace of the battle.

RESOURCES:

Sayre Fire Evacuation Hotline: (800) 439-2909

Human Services, Shelter and Special Needs Assistance, L.A. County: 2-1-1 or (800) 339-6993

American Red Cross, Los Angeles Chapter: (888) 737-4306

Oakridge residents in the city are asked to call the LAPD to check in (818) 838-9827

City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services: (888) 452-7381

Sylmar High School
13050 Borden Ave
Sylmar, CA 91342
(818) 833-3700

For information on patients evacuated from Olive View UCLA Medical Center, call (323) 869-2626.



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