Saddle Ridge Fire evacuees return to destroyed, damages homes as containment increases

SYLMAR, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As firefighters continued making progress on the Saddleridge Fire, which has burned nearly 8,000 acres in the northern San Fernando Valley, residents impacted by the deadly blaze returned to find remnants of their homes after dozens of structures were damaged or destroyed.

Residents were able to return home beginning Saturday evening, when evacuation orders were lifted as containment of the fire increased after it left one person dead, damaged or destroyed at least 75 structures structures and forced about 100,000 people from their homes in parts of Sylmar, Granada Hills and Porter Ranch.

Containment of the fire was at 43% and had burned 7,965 acres as of Monday.

Some residents returned to their neighborhoods to find their home in ruins.

From the street, it doesn't appear as though Porter Ranch resident Richard Reel's home sustained much damage.

But once on the inside, the true devastation is revealed. From the floor to the ceiling, the home was gutted by the fast-moving fire.

Reel and his wife left their home just before midnight Friday, when he saw the flames come up right to his property.

He described it as fire raining from the sky.

Reel says he and his wife - who have been married for nearly seven decades - have lost everything after the blaze destroyed their home, which was full of antiques and a lifetime of memories.

"It's devastating. We've been married 67 years. A lot of history, a lot of antiques, raising kids, just gone in a flash," Reel said. "Just was so heartbreaking."

Another Porter Ranch family managed to grab passports, birth certificates and other documents before getting into their car and leaving. The man, who didn't want to be identified, said there were embers everywhere and didn't have time to get anything else. He left with the clothes on his back.

He said he's been getting great support from the community and his neighbors. He said he had moved into the neighborhood a few months ago and plans to rebuild after dealing with his insurance company.

MORE: 7-year-old Porter Ranch boy credited for alerting neighbors to evacuate during Saddleridge Fire

Officials said Monday three first responders were injured, including a firefighter who suffered a minor eye injury.

The Los Angeles Unified School District said that all schools would be open Monday. Community colleges that were affected by the fire were also planning to return to their regular schedules.

Officials with the South Coast Air Quality Management District are warning residents in the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Mountains and Santa Clarita Valley of unhealthy air quality that remains in effect through Monday.

Children and people with sensitivity to poor air quality should stay indoors "as much as possible even in areas where smoke, soot, or ash cannot be seen, or there is no smell of smoke," officials said.

The blaze erupted Thursday night around 9 p.m. in Sylmar, Granada Hills and Porter Ranch. The wind-driven fire led to the shutdown of multiple major freeways, including the 210 and 5. One witness said he saw the initial stage of the Saddleridge Fire burning at the base of a Southern California Edison transmission tower behind his Sylmar home Thursday night. The official cause of the fire remains under investigation.

MORE: Time lapse shows fast-moving Saddleridge Fire burning hillside in northern San Fernando Valley
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A time lapse video shows the fast-moving Saddleridge Fire scorching a hillside in the Porter Ranch area, capturing the blaze's path of destruction over just a few hours.



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