Wildfire north of Los Angeles forces hundreds from homes [Updated]

Antelope Valley Crown Fire
Antelope Valley Crown Fire "Mojave Desert"/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A huge wildfire churned through high desert wilderness north of Los Angeles on Friday, destroying a few buildings. Evacuation orders for thousands of residents were lifted as firefighters launched an aggressive aerial assault and managed to get the blaze 20 percent contained.

Updated at 6:24 p.m. | Permalink
Crown Fire 20 percent contained
Fire officials say the Crown Fire in the western Palmdale and Leona Valley areas has grown to 13,000 acres. Evacuation orders for thousands of residents were lifted as firefighters launched an aggressive aerial assault and managed to get the blaze 20 percent contained.

Temperatures neared 100 degrees with single-digit relative humidity and the National Weather Service predicted gusts in the area up to 50 mph Friday night. The fire has burned more than 20 square miles since erupting Thursday afternoon.

Over 1,300 firefighters remain deployed on the scene, Los Angeles County Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Bryant.

KPCC wire services

Updated at 3:34 p.m. | Permalink
Fire jumps aqueduct, threaten subdivision homes

The Crown Fire has jumped the California Aqueduct and is making a run at a subdivision on the edge of the city of Palmdale.

Winds apparently carried embers across the wide concrete channel Friday afternoon and flames rapidly spread to the backyard fences of a modern homes in the Rancho Vista community.

Helicopters have been dipping buckets into the aqueduct to make rapid water drops. No homes appear to have been damaged. Numerous fire engines are in the area.

The area had been under voluntary evacuation orders, L.A. County Fire Inspector Matt Levesque said. Because of the proximity of homes to the wildland, the bulk of the firefighting personnel has been concentrated on the fire's far eastern flank, Levesque said.

Over 750 firefighters remain on the scene with air support being provided by up to 14 water-dropping aircraft. An additional two strike teams have been ordered to the area, which will boost the number of personnel to 800.

The majority of the firefighters on the scene have been there for less than 24 hours, Levesque said, adding that it's not unusual for them to work 24-hour shifts.

The fire has burned more than 12 square miles since erupting Thursday afternoon.

KPCC staff and the Associated Press

Updated at 9:24 a.m. | Permalink

Power lines that support power throughout Southern California threatened

Fire crews are aggressively working to protect the several hundred homes threatened by the Crown Fire in the Antelope Valley. There are voluntary evacuations for the Leona Valley and Anaverde communities.

Incident Commander Michael Bryant says there are also several power lines that need to be protected.

“In DWP we have two 500KV power lines in and around the area of the fire today," said Bryant. "Four 220KV Edison lines – that and the Ritter Ranch and Ana Verde areas. That’s one of our primary priorities today because these lines support power through Southern California.”

The wildfire has already scorched through 8,000 acres. It’s 5 percent contained.

Updated at 9:22 a.m. | Permalink

Firefighters work to protect Palmdale, Leona Valley homes

Around 750 firefighters continue to battle the Crown Fire today in the Antelope Valley. It’s already burned through 8,000 acres. It’s 5 percent contained; 500-plus homes in the Leona Valley and Anaverde area are under voluntary evacuation orders.

Incident Commander Michael Bryant says protecting those homes is high priority right now.

“We’re aggressively working the eastern and western perimeters of this fire today to keep the fire away from the communities of Palmdale, and also keep the fire northeast of Leona Valley.”

Bryant says hot temperatures and 20 mile an hour winds will challenge fire crews throughout the day. Highs will reach the mid-90s in the Leona Valley west of Palmdale.

No injuries have been reported.

Updated at 9:17 a.m. | Permalink

One single-family home and three mobile home residences were destroyed, another house had roof damage and various other outbuildings and garages were lost in the horse country region, authorities said.

A huge DC-10 jumbo jet tanker arrived on the scene after sunrise Friday to drop fire retardant on the 12 1/2-square-mile blaze. Containment was estimated at only 5 percent.

The blaze erupted Thursday afternoon and prompted the evacuation of about 2,000 Antelope Valley homes, but most had returned by early Friday, Los Angeles County fire and sheriff's officials said.

Flames up to 50 feet high threatened the communities of Leona Valley, Anaverde and Ranch Vista but cool, windless overnight weather helped ease the threat.

On Thursday, the fire stopped at the California Aqueduct, which runs along foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. The concrete channel acted as a natural firebreak, fire Inspector Matt Levesque said.

"That fire burned right up to the homes (but there is) no more fuel for it to burn," he said.

Aircraft and about 500 firefighters intended to concentrate on protecting the densely populated Palmdale area a few miles away and a cluster of power transmission lines that provide electricity to much of Southern California, Bryant said.

A forecast of gusty afternoon winds and a high of 98 degrees were expected to pose a challenge for crews.

The fire broke out near a state highway that snakes through the San Gabriel Mountains, connecting Los Angeles to the high desert. Angeles National Forest lands lie on either side.

Bryant said fire investigators were focusing on some workers who were trying to remove a tire rim by hammering on bolts. He said the workers were cooperating with the investigation.

Farther north in Kern County, good weather helped firefighters build containment lines around two wildfires that destroyed homes in remote mountain communities earlier in the week.

A 2 1/2-square-mile blaze near Tehachapi on the western edge of the Mojave Desert was 46 percent contained after burning about 30 homes and other structures in a scattered community called Old West Ranch.

The community nonetheless remained evacuated, affecting about 150 people, said John Buchanan, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze erupted Tuesday afternoon and rapidly swept through an area where Kern County fire authorities say there is no history of any fires on record, meaning vegetation hadn't burned there in more than a century.

To the north, a fire that destroyed eight residences and a few outbuildings as it spread across about 26 square miles of the Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada was 55 percent contained, authorities said.

© 2010 The Associated Press.

Updated at 7:50 a.m. | Permalink

Shelters open to house evacuees, animals

The Crown Fire in the Antelope Valley area has burned through more than 7 square miles. It's 5 percent contained. Several communities near the fire area have been forced to evacuate.

Two shelters have been set up: one at the Agua Dulce Elementary School, and the other is at the Marie Kerr Recreation Center in Palmdale.

Carmela Burke is with the American Red Cross.

“As they evacuate they need to gather their important papers, their medicines and prescriptions, and you know, eyeglasses, and maybe some food for their pets, because near the evacuation center we have animal care and control people who are there at the scene who are there to help with the needs of the animals.”

Burke says the shelters will stay open as long as they are needed. Small and large animals can be taken there. Large animals can also be taken to the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds.

- KPCC staff

Updated at 6:43 a.m. | Permalink

The Crown Fire in the Palmdale area has burned nearly 6,000 acres. It's 5 percent contained. Around 500 firefighters continue to battle the flames.

One Firehawk helicopter has been making water drops throughout the night. More tankers are expected to deploy this morning.

Meteorologist Todd Hall with the National Weather Service said winds in that area today could gust up to 35 miles per hour.

“Erratically they can change direction quite a bit due to the differential heating of the fire. And when I say, ‘differential heating,’ I mean some parts of the fire are cooler and some parts are warmer. And that can change the wind direction on the firefighters making it a lot more difficult.”

Hall says temperatures will be in the mid-90s for the area near the Crown Fire.

L.A. County officials have lifted the evacuation orders for the Rancho Vista area except for the Boulders Mobile Home Communities. But several other communities near the area are still under mandatory evacuation.

- KPCC staff

Original story:

Firefighters plan an aggressive air attack at first light Friday against a fast-moving wildfire that exploded in northern Los Angeles County, chewing through more than 7 square miles of dry brush, forcing thousands of evacuations and burning at least three structures.

There is zero containment, authorities said.

Three water-dropping helicopters and hundreds of firefighters worked through the night to get ahead of the blaze that broke out around 3 p.m. Thursday southwest of Palmdale. By early evening the winds picked up and pushed the flames north and east toward the suburbs of Los Angeles County's inland desert, authorities said.

Orange flames exploded through dry grasses, jumped roads and sped across the rural foothills that connect Los Angeles to the high desert.

"Man, it looks bad outside. If I step outside the restaurant, it's just insane-looking - black and orange smoke and helicopters going through, dropping water," said Jamie Karschamroon, 29, the co-owner of Crazy Otto's diner in Leona Valley.

The fire broke out north of a state highway that snakes through the San Gabriel Mountains, connecting Los Angeles to the high desert. Angeles National Forest lands lie on either side.

About 2,000 homes in the community of Leona Valley and parts of Palmdale were evacuated Friday, according to Los Angeles County fire officials.

Two outbuildings and a hay house were destroyed by the flames.

KCAL-TV showed at least two structures fully engulfed in flames near where the blaze jumped a road and sent firefighters and sheriff's deputies scattering.

"It's fuel- and topography-driven, but when fires have this much fuel and burn this hot they make their own wind," Levesque said.

The area is west of the 250-square-mile zone scorched by last summer's Station Fire, the largest wildland blaze in county history.

About 200 firefighters contained another blaze at 350 acres, Levesque said. A third fire was stopped at 30 acres.

Further north in Kern County, good weather helped firefighters build containment lines around two wildfires that destroyed homes in remote mountain communities earlier in the week.

A 2 1/2-square-mile blaze near Tehachapi on the western edge of the Mojave Desert was 44 percent contained after burning about 30 homes and other structures in a scattered community called Old West Ranch.

The community nonetheless remained evacuated, affecting about 150 people, said John Buchanan, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze erupted Tuesday afternoon and rapidly swept through an area where Kern County fire authorities say there is no history of any fires on record, meaning vegetation hadn't burned there in more than a century.

To the north, a fire that destroyed eight residences and a few outbuildings as it spread across about 25 square miles of the Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada was 20 percent contained, authorities said.

The cause of the fires is under investigation.

© 2010 The Associated Press.

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