SYLMAR, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- All evacuees were able to return home over the weekend as containment of the Saddleridge Fire increased after leaving one person dead, burning over 7,900 acres, damaging or destroying 31 structures and forcing about 100,000 people from their homes in parts of northern San Fernando Valley.
The Los Angeles Unified School District tweeted that all schools would be open Monday. Community colleges that were affected by the fire were also planning to return to their regular schedules.
Prior to the evacuation orders being lifted, residents whose homes are north of the 118 Freeway were escorted by the LAPD to retrieve personal items or pets that may have been left behind. Evacuees were required to provide proof of residence and were only allowed back home in five-minute increments, the department tweeted.
Evacuees lined up at the Porter Ranch Towncenter to be briefly escorted back to their homes Saturday morning. Homeowners were seen carrying out their belongs and quickly returning to their cars.
Authorities warned against residents staying at their homes longer than the allotted time period as mandatory evacuation orders remained in most parts of Porter Ranch.
One man successfully retrieved items from his home after trying three times to have an officer escort him.
"I wasn't home, but my wife and my son were home, so they had to evacuate pretty quick, so we didn't get everything we needed," he said. "There were a couple medicines we were missing, my son's retainers that he needed to sleep at night...I tried to come here last night, but it was like a three-hour wait."
Smoke and ash from the fire, which was 41% contained by Sunday morning, has led to poor air quality. Some as far south as the Los Angeles International Airport reported smelling smoke from the blaze, which is believed to have started from a Southern California Edison transmission tower just behind one Sylmar resident's home.
Despite lighter winds, National Weather Service forecasters noted that humidity levels in the area were expected to remain in the single digits.
Firefighters who arrived to knock down the then-small fire Thursday night were quickly overwhelmed and had to retreat to their trucks. From there, the fire exploded: One person - described only as a man in his 50s - died in connection to the aggressive brush fire that has scorched about 7,965 acres and forced the evacuation of 25,000 homes as flames ripped through residential areas. Officials say 13 homes were deemed a total loss and the rest sustained varying degrees of damage, while Los Angeles fire officials said the greatest area of impact on homes lost in Porter Ranch.
Officials held a press conference on the fire Friday morning, in which they reported a man died of cardiac arrest as a result of the wind-driven blaze. A firefighter suffered a "minor" eye injury and was transported to an area hospital for treatment.
One man said his wife woke him up around 1 a.m. as flames threatened their home.
"We could look out our window, and we could see the flames, just like over the hill. Shortly thereafter, the LAPD was on our street, using their bullhorns, telling us you guys have mandatory evacuations, you gotta get out," he said.
Officials stressed that the biggest concern was ensuring homeowners heed evacuation warnings. Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect in the following areas:
All of Porter Ranch (north of 118 Freeway) from Reseda to De Soto.
The Oakridge Estates community north of the 210 Freeway.
West of Balboa, North of Sesnon to the Ventura County border with DeSoto as the western border.
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