Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Firefighters hose down the roof of a house damaged by a wildfire Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Porter Ranch, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Sarah Sidharta walks along Beaufait Avenue in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles after the Saddleridge Fire burned homes on her parent's street on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. The Sidhartas lost and rebuilt their home in the 1988 fire. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register/SCNG via AP)

  • An air tanker drops retardant behind the Newhall Church of the Nazarene while battling the Saddleridge Fire in Newhall, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. The wildfire is raging along the northern border of Los Angeles as powerful Santa Ana winds sweep Southern California. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • A helicopter drops water onto an advancing wildfire Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Porter Ranch, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Smoke from the Saddleridge Fire hangs above power lines as the sun rises in Newhall, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. An aggressive wildfire in Southern California seared its way through dry vegetation Friday and spread quickly, destroying more than a dozen homes as tens of thousands of residents were ordered to get out of its way, authorities said. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • The Manokian home on Hampton Court in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles is seen after it burned down from the Saddleridge Fire on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Porter Ranch is under evacuation orders from the fire. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register/SCNG via AP)

  • Los Angeles County firefighters work hot spots in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, after the Saddleridge Fire burned through thousands of acres during Santa Ana wind conditions. An aggressive wildfire in Southern California seared its way through dry vegetation Friday and spread quickly, destroying more than a dozen homes as tens of thousands of residents were ordered to get out of its way, authorities said. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register/SCNG via AP)

  • Flames from a backfire, lit by firefighters to stop the Saddleridge Fire from spreading, burn a hillside in Newhall, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. An aggressive wildfire in Southern California seared its way through dry vegetation Friday and spread quickly, destroying dozens of homes as tens of thousands of residents scrambled to get out of its way, authorities said. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • A family friend hugs The Manokian children, Serineh and Matthew after their family home on Hampton Court in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles burned down in the Saddleridge Fire on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. A wildfire is raging along the northern border of Los Angeles as powerful Santa Ana winds sweep Southern California.(Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)

  • A resident surveys the scorched remains of her home and vehicle after the Saddleridge Fire burned through Granada Hills, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • Santa Ana wind driven flames destroyed this home on Beaufait Ave. in Porter Ranch, Calif,. on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (Dean Musgrove/The Orange County Register via AP)

  • Firefighters make a stand on an advancing wildfire as smoke fills the air Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Porter Ranch, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Eyed Jarjour comforts a neighbor who lost his Jolette Ave. home to the Saddleridge Fire on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Granada Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • A firefighter sprays water in front of an advancing wildfire Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Porter Ranch, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Homes sit on a ridge in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles after the Saddleridge Fire burned thousands of acres during Santa Ana wind conditions on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. The wildfire is raging along the northern border of Los Angeles as powerful Santa Ana winds sweep Southern California. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)

  • Judy Webber has her Beaufait Avenue fire damaged home in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles boarded up after the Saddleridge Fire burned thousands of acres during Santa Ana wind conditions, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Porter Ranch is under evacuation orders from the fire that has destroyed at least two dozen homes. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register/SCNG via AP)

Saturday, October 12, 2019 2:00 pm

Firefighters taming Southern California blaze as winds fade

By CHRISTOPHER WEBER and MICHAEL R. BLOOD of The Associated Press

 

LOS ANGELES -- Firefighters aided by diminishing winds were taming a wildfire Saturday that damaged or destroyed more than 30 structures along Los Angeles' northern edge and sent a blanket of smoke across a swath of neighborhoods.

Officials say the blaze in the city's San Fernando Valley area hadn't grown significantly since Friday, and ground crews were tamping down lingering hotspots. However, thousands of people remained under evacuation orders and authorities warned the potential for flare-ups remained.

The cause is under investigation.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said the bulk of the fire had moved away from homes and into rugged hillsides and canyons where firefighters were making steady progress slowing its advance. TV footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the area but no walls of towering flame, as a water-dropping helicopter moved in to dump another cascade on the blaze.

One man who tried to fight the blaze died of a heart attack, but no other injuries were reported.

"The bulk of the fire has moved toward wildland," Humphrey said.

Firefighters worked under sunny skies, but air quality was poor as smoke dispersed over much of greater Los Angeles. Air quality officials urged people to limit outdoor activities.

East of Los Angeles, firefighters were also gaining ground on a blaze that ripped through a Riverside County mobile home park, destroying dozens of residences. In Northern California, the lights are back on for 98% of customers who lost power when Pacific Gas & Electric switched it off in an effort to prevent wildfires.

About 100,000 residents were ordered out of their homes because of the wind-driven wildfire that broke out Thursday evening in the San Fernando Valley. It spread westward through tinder-dry brush in hilly subdivisions on the outskirts of the country's second-largest city.

Interstate 5, the main north-to-south corridor in the state, was shut down for much of the day Friday, choking traffic until finally reopening.

The smoky scent spreading through much of Los Angeles was a reminder of the threat of a fire season just beginning.

The region has been on high alert as notoriously powerful Santa Ana winds brought dry desert air to a desiccated landscape that only needed a spark to erupt. Fire officials have warned they expect more intense and devastating California wildfires, in part because of climate change.

Fire danger remained high for much of Southern California, with warnings in place for large swaths of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties west of Los Angeles.

The cause of the Los Angeles blaze wasn't immediately known, though arson investigators said a witness reported seeing sparks or flames coming from a power line near where the fire is believed to have started, said Peter Sanders, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

A Sylmar man, Robert Delgado, said he saw flames under a high-voltage electrical transmission tower near his home at around the time the fire broke out, KABC-TV reported.

Southern California Edison said it owns the transmission tower shown on KABC-TV, but a spokeswoman would not confirm that was where the fire began. The utility said it could take a long time to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

Jonathan Stahl was driving home to Valencia when he saw the smoke and immediately diverted to a mobile home park in Sylmar where his grandmother and aunt live together.

The park had been nearly wiped out in 2008 when one of the city's most destructive fires leveled 500 homes.

Stahl helped his grandmother, Beverly Stahl, 91, who was in her pajamas, and his aunt to pack clothing, medication and take their two dogs. They saw flames in the distance as they drove away.

"We just packed up what we could as fast as we could," Stahl said at an evacuation center at the Sylmar Recreation Center, massaging his grandmother's shoulders as she sat in a wheelchair with a Red Cross blanket on her lap. "If we'd stuck around, we would have been in trouble. Real big trouble."

Stefanie Dazio and Brian Melley of the Associated Press contributed.