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Powerhouse Fire moves into Antelope Valley

June 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Powerhouse Fire remains a major threat as it moves into new communities, with the flames pushing into the Antelope Valley.

As of 11 p.m. Sunday, the fire burned more than 22,000 acres and was 20 percent contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Officials had earlier estimated that the fire was at 25,000 acres. Full containment is not expected until next Monday.

The blaze was burning near the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. It jumped the California Aqueduct near West Lancaster Road and was threatening a farm.

Officials say in some areas, the brush hasn't burned since 1929. Tinder dry brush combined with low humidity, high heat and fierce winds created a massive firestorm that cost some residents everything.

"We had to evacuate. We left immediately. We didn't have time to pick up anything," Monique Hernandez said through tears.

Eyewitness News saw six destroyed homes in the Lake Hughes neighborhood. Fire officials confirmed that six structures were destroyed, but added that nine others could be either destroyed or damaged, though it was unclear what type of structures they were.

See an interactive map of the Powerhouse Fire

Approximately 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze from the ground and in the air. Three firefighters sustained minor injuries. So far, the fire has cost nearly $3 million to fight.

Evacuations and Road Closures

Approximately 3,000 people from some 700 homes remain under mandatory evacuation orders in the Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth neighborhoods. Also evacuated are areas from San Francisquito Canyon Road north to Elizabeth Lake Road, Lake Hughes and areas south of Lake Hughes Road and north of South Portal Road, Lake Hughes.

The sheriff's department expanded evacuations to include Lancaster Road to Avenue D and 170th to 190th South. Officials say evacuees wouldn't be returning home until at least Monday and possibly Tuesday. Homes in the community of Green Valley could be evacuated if the fire moves closer.

Some roads remain closed as the firefight continues. Only residents and emergency personnel are allowed to enter San Francisquito Canyon Road from Copper Hill, and only emergency personnel can enter the areas between Calle Daggett and the Department of Water and Power Village on the San Francisquito Canyon Road. Elizabeth Lake Canyon Road is closed from Cottonwood to Castaic. Cottonwood camp grounds continue to be closed.

Evacuation Center/Shelters

Marie Kerr Park Recreation Center - Red Cross Evacuation Center
2723 A W Rancho Vista Blvd.
Palmdale, CA 93551

Antelope Valley Fairgrounds - Shelter for large animals
2551 West Avenue H
Lancaster, CA 93536

Saturday evening, a hiker was spotted in the middle of the forest, right in the path of the fire. One of the attack aircraft dropped a fire shelter down to him. Officials said within about half an hour, firefighters were able to scoop him up and rescue him.

High temperatures, rugged terrain and shifting winds are creating obstacles for crews. Also, downed power lines are posing a hazard. Firefighters say they've noticed arcs of electricity jumping from the ground in their direction.

Local health officials warned that air quality in the Santa Clarita Valley and San Gabriel Valley mountains will be unhealthy for sensitive individuals throughout the weekend due to the fire, and they urged residents to take precautions and stay indoors if possible.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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