Many evacuated due to Sand Fire allowed to return home

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KABC) -- Sand Fire flames in the Santa Clarita area have torched more than 35,000 acres by Monday morning, and officials were concerned shifting winds could make matters worse.

The raging fire destroyed 18 structures in its path in the areas of Sand Canyon, Bear Divide and Little Tujunga, and was threatening thousands of others. The destructive blaze has consumed approximately 35,155 acres, which is nearly 55 square miles. The containment remains at 10 percent.

Mandatory evacuations were issued for 10,000 homes, which covers approximately 20,000 residents, and 200 commercial buildings were threatened, according to officials from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Officials announced all residents in evacuated areas were allowed to return home at 7 p.m., with the exception of those located on Placerita Canyon Road from Running Horse Lane to Pacy Street, and Little Tujunga Canyon Road from the Wildlife Way Station to Sand Canyon Road & Placerita Canyon Road.

Officials said all residents entering the area would need to provide identification. Authorities also urged those who did not need to return home immediately to wait until later in the evening to help with traffic congestion.

Fire crews dropped Phos-Chek fire retardant along the ridge of the fire, trying to prevent the flames from spreading.

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Firefighters continue the battle against the Sand Fire, which has scorched more than 33,000 acres and destroyed more than a dozen homes in northern Los Angeles County.

Speaking at a Monday morning press conference, authorities implored homeowners to heed evacuation orders. Officials said civilians are creating a hazard for firefighters when they wait until the last minute to leave or try to get back to their homes when it is unsafe.

"[Firefighters] felt they lost additional structures because they had to stop what they were doing to help citizens evacuate," said L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.

CHP Sgt. Kevin Pack said residents trying to get back to their homes have nearly run over officers and deputies.

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More than a dozen homes in the path of the massive Sand Fire were burned down to the ground.

"If you see smoke and fire coming in your direction, don't wait for a police officer or a deputy or a firefighters to say 'go,'" said L.A. County Fire Department Deputy Chief John Tripp.

"To those who are still here, if we ask for a mandatory evacuation, there's a reason we're doing that, it's to protect all the public," Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said.

Officials are concerned about weather conditions, as winds are expected to remain in the 25 to 30 mph range Monday evening. Winds are forecasted to die down overnight, with conditions remaining less windy for Tuesday morning.

Fire behavior was expected to be similar to previous days, as fire crews continued to respond to the five-year drought, low humidity and extreme temperatures causing the fire to move quickly.

"The significant amount of fuels on the fire are like 30 years old, so they're decadent. They've created explosive conditions," said Chief Mike Wakoski, incident commander of SoCal Team 3.

L.A. County Board Supervisor Michael Antonovich addressed the topic of Super Scoopers. The county leases them from Canada after the end of Canada's fire season, but that isn't until next month.

Antonovich said the supervisor board proclaimed a local emergency on Monday. The board was scheduled to ratify the local emergency on Tuesday. Osby added that the use of contract air in this firefight will be re-evaluated.

The structures destroyed by the Sand Fire include five buildings associated with the Bear Divide Ranger Station. Four of those structures were occupied by Forest Service employees, and three of those employees were firefighting personnel. Two were fighting the Sand Fire, and one was battling another fire in the San Diego area, according to Angeles National Forest Fire chief Rob Garcia.

MORE: Drones interfering with Sand Fire battling efforts

The Sand Fire has charred an average of 10,000 acres per day, Tripp said. He estimated that approximately 2,000 homes have been saved in the past three days. He said the areas of Sand Canyon and Via Princessa are currently being checked and hoped to repopulate those areas sometime Monday.

In addition to the homes burned, the fire has also charred several other structures on the Sable Ranch, a well-known filming location, according to authorities.

A man's body was found in a burned sedan in the 26700 block of Iron Canyon Road, which is near one of the neighborhoods where a home had burned.

More than 3,370 fire personnel from throughout the state were helping battle the fire, along with 435 engines, 22 dozers, 17 water tenders, 23 helicopters and two firefighter rescue teams. Two firefighters were reported to have suffered minor injuries in the firefight as of Monday morning.

The blaze broke out Friday afternoon along the northbound 14 Freeway near Sand Canyon. The cause of the fire is under investigation.


The evacuation areas include:

- All residents along Placerita Canyon Road from Running Horse Lane to Pacy Street.
- All residents along Little Tujunga Canyon Road from the Wildlife Way Station to Sand Canyon Road and Placerita Canyon Road.

MORE: Latest evacuations, road closures, shelter updates for Sand Fire

Evacuation centers were set up at Hart High School, 24825 N. Newhall, Santa Clarita and Lake View Terrace Recreation Center, 11075 Foothill Blvd, Lake View Terrace. Another evacuation center was set up at Highland High School, 39055 25th Street West, Palmdale. The Evacuation Center at Golden Valley High School was closed.

Large animals should be evacuated early in the morning to avoid congestion and allowing access to firefighting equipment, officials said. They can be evacuated to Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, 2551 W. Avenue H, Lancaster and Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka, Woodland Hills, Hansen Dam, 1798 Foothill Blvd, Lake View Terrace.

About 770 large animals were in the care of Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control. Small animals can go to Hart High School and Highland High School.

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