Environment & Science

Calabasas fire that burned 516 acres is mostly contained

A brush fire burns a forest near Highway 101 and Calabasas on August 18, 2013 north of Los Angeles, California.
A brush fire burns a forest near Highway 101 and Calabasas on August 18, 2013 north of Los Angeles, California.

Update Sun., June 5, 2:30 p.m.: Fire is mostly contained

The Old Fire is 75 percent contained, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. And it turns out that only two buildings — one home and one commercial building — were destroyed in the blaze.

Update 2 p.m.: Air quality is concern for areas around fire

 The L.A. County Department of Public Health has issued an air quality advisory for the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding areas. In areas where there is visible smoke or the odor of smoke, all people should avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and limit physical exertion (whether indoor or outdoor), such as exercise. This is especially true for people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory disease, who should stay indoors as much as possible even in areas where smoke, soot or ash cannot be seen. Schools and non-school related sports organizations have been advised to suspend outside physical activities in these areas.

Update 9:29 am: Calabasas fire burns more than 500 acres, evacuations ordered

Hundreds of firefighters and at least three helicopters have been battling a blaze that erupted near Calabasas High School late Saturday afternoon, threatening 3,000 houses and forcing an estimated 5,000 people from their homes.

By Sunday morning, the Old Fire, which began burning at Mulholland Highway near Old Topanga Canyon Road, had charred more than 500 acres.

Firetracker: Old Fire

On Saturday, around a half-dozen neighborhoods in the path of the fire were evacuated, including mandatory evacuations at Calabasas Highlands, Eddingham and Adamsville. Some evacuation orders were lifted on Sunday, mostly in Calabasas, where many residents returned to homes that were without electricity. Evacuation orders remain in place in Topanga.

You can see a full map of evacuation zones here and read more about what to do if you're asked to evacuate

Authorities warn that serious challenges remain as crews work around the clock in thick brush and jagged terrain to stop the progress of the brush fire.

David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, tells KPCC that the Calabasas area can expect lower temperatures and higher humidities on Sunday, which should help crews fighting the fire. On Saturday, it was 100 degrees in the middle of the afternoon; Sunday's temperatures should be in the mid-80s at the same hour.

nws tweet

Firefighters are taking advantage of the calmer winds and cooler temperatures to attack the eastern and southern edges of the blaze, Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp tells AP.

He said it was "our number one priority to get those two flanks contained," adding that the fire was hung up on the mid-slope of steep canyons, making a direct attack difficult. Hot, dry conditions on Saturday led to spot fires that had crews scrambling, Tripp said.

Photo: Calabasas Fire

Many residents who fled their homes were directed to an evacuation center set up at Agoura Hills High School. Another evacuation center for people with large animals was set up at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.

The Old Fire began shortly after 4 p.m. on Saturday when a vehicle slammed into a pole and toppled multiple power lines, Melanie Flores, a Los Angeles County Fire Department supervisor, told KTLA. The fire then raced up a nearby hillside.

Three homes were damaged, but the extent of the damage wasn't clear, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Keith Mora tells AP. Other buildings, including some at a city park, also were damaged.

Video: Calabasas Fire

It has been a busy weekend for fire crews in Southern California. In addition to the Old Fire, the 2-acre Valley Circle Fire broke out and was extinguished in West Hills. Crews also battled the Temecula Fire, which snarled traffic on the southbound 15 Freeway.