Update 4:11 p.m.: Powerhouse fire reaches 25,000 acres
At a press briefing Sunday, fire officials said the ferocious Powerhouse fire had grown over 5,000 acres Sunday afternoon, reaching 25,000 acres. The fire has destroyed six homes and damaged 15 others.
"At this time our priorities are shifting to the protection of life and property," said Angeles National Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras.
Contreras added that the fire was being fed by dry underbrush, some of which hadn't been cleared or burned since the 1920s. The high winds — with gusts at 45 miles per hour — were spreading the flames quickly.
Officials said they were expecting an evening decrease in winds and an increase in humidity, which they hope will help dampen the flames.
Residents are still not allowed back into the Lake Hughes and Lake Elisabeth areas. 2000 people were evacuated Saturday night when the fire gobbled up thousands of acres in hours.
Laura Molina was ordered to evacuate her Elisabeth Lake area home by LA Sheriff's Department about 10 p.m. Saturday. Deputies had been going house to house a few hours earlier, taking a head count, and advising people on what to take and when they would need to leave.
She and her husband, "packed up our digital essentials, took the hard drives out of the computers, got personal papers and photos," and left.
They checked in at the evacuation shelter at Marie Kerr Park in Palmdale, then spent the night at a local motel. She wasn't sure when she would be able to return home.
"We don't know when we can go back," she said.
Update 2:30 p.m: Main fire breaks into four different chunks
The 19,500 acre Powerhouse fire has split into 4 large chunks; Green Valley and Lake Hughes Road, South of Lake Hughes Road, west of Lake Hughes Road extending north and the high desert area.
The temperature is 90 degrees and humidity levels are not increasing, according to Nathan Judy, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
"We didn't get the break we were hoping for," said Judy.
The fire has moved through the residential area of Lake Hughes but officials say homes there are still threatened because there is still fuel left to burn. Mandatory evacuations remain in place for the communities of Lake Hughes and Elisabeth Lake. 2000 people were evacuated Saturday night.
Officials will hold a media briefing at 4 p.m.
Update 11:33 a.m.: Air quality could reach 'unhealthy' levels
Air quality officials are warning residents near the western San Gabriel Mountains to limit strenous outdoor activity and, if possible, remain inside.
The agency, which monitors air quality in the L.A. region, told City News Service that residents with heart or lung disease who are close to the Powerhouse fire face the greatest risk.
"At this time, the main smoke plume is moving aloft toward the north and east,'' AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood told City News Service. "But low-level smoke and ash has affected areas surrounding the fire.'"
The agency said that air quality could be downgraded to "unhealthy" in the Santa Clarita Valley region Sunday.
Update 11: 09 a.m.: Fire triples in size, burns at least 6 structures
The Powerhouse Fire exploded Saturday night, tripling in size from 5,561 to 19,500 acres.
"There is a canyon that runs from the southwest to northeast. A wind lined up through that canyon and once the fire got established in that canyon it began to spot," said Matt Corelli of the U.S. Forest Service.
Embers were pushed a quarter of a mile ahead of the main fire. Those embers caused 200-300 acre fires to start and then combined.
"It moved miles in an hour or so," said Corelli.
At one point, the Los Angeles County Fire Department's station was threatened, but the fire switched directions and moved away from the building. Authorities say at least six structures have been completely destroyed.
Dennis "Pop" Immel is a resident of Lake Hughes. He spent the night protecting his home
"I was running around going from section to section, and hosing and putting hot spots out," said Immel. Several of his neighbors' homes are gone.
Dozens of homes were saved in the communities of Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth, and the fire's northern spread was stopped at the California Aqueduct near Myrick Canyon.
Cooler weather and higher humidity are in Sunday's forecast but as of mid morning, 1000 firefighters were still dealing with 15-25 mph winds and hot weather. There are eight air tankers and eight helicopters dropping water.
The fire's most active front Sunday is northwest of Lake Hughes, on Pine Valley Road, with miles of uninhabited, chaparral-clad mountains ahead of it, according to helicopter pilot's reports.
The fire is 20 percent contained and the cause is under investigation. It began Thursday just north of Powerhouse No. 1, a hydroelectric plant near the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
- The community of Lake Hughes is under mandatory evacuation. Elisabeth Lake is under voluntary evacuation orders.
Lake Hughes Road has been closed from Cottonwood campground on the North to Lake Castaic on the South.
San Fransciquito Canyon Road remains under a hard closure. Bouquet Canyon Road is under a soft closure open to residence only.
The residential area at the intersection of Munz Ranch Road and the California Aquaduct is under voluntary evacuation.
All residents north of South Portal and west of San Francisquito Canyon Road are asked to evacuate.
Probation Camps John Munz and William Mendenhall (approximately 140 juveniles), have been evacuated to Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.
- A Red Cross evacuation center was set up at Marie Kerr Park, 39700 30th Street West, in Palmdale.
- Persons evacuating large animals were told to take them to Gate 3 of the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, 2551 West Avenue H, in Lancaster.
- Small animals can be taken to Lancaster Animal Shelter, 5210 W Avenue I, Lancaster, CA 93536 or Castaic Animal Shelter, 31044, Charlie Canyon Rd, Castaic, CA 913536.
Evacuation checklist (from CalFire):
- Critical Medication
- Important photos and personal papers
- Essential valuables
- Pets, livestock, Pet food
- Change of clothes and toiletries
- Cell phone and charger
- Critical papers and effects in a fire-proof safe
- Evacuation Route Map with at least two routes
- Drive your planned route of escape before an actual emergency
- West of Bouquet Canyon on Elizabeth Lake Road to Lake Hughes Road
- Johnson Road to Elizabeth Lake Road
- Munz Ranch Road to Elizabeth Lake Road
- Lake Hughes road has been closed from Elizabeth Lake road to Lake Castaic
- San Francisquito Canyon road is closed above the Power House and below Green Valley