Multiple wildfires destroy homes in Los Angeles County

Besides the main Ventura fire, two others were destroying homes and resulting in evacuations in Los Angeles County

LOS ANGELES — Wind-whipped wildfires were tearing Tuesday through neighborhoods in northern Los Angeles County, blackening more than 16,000 acres and destroying at least 30 homes.

The Los Angeles County fires resulted in evacuations of more than 151,300 residents. At sunset Tuesday, rescuers were trying to save thousands of farm animals in the Shadow Hills area, including horses, sheep and alpacas, from encroaching flames.

“We have lost structures. We have not lost lives,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. But, he added, “We just don’t know what this fire will do.”

One fire was designated the Creek Fire, burning in the in the mountainous Sylmar/Lakeview Terrace area of Los Angeles. The other, burning farther north, was being called the Rye fire, near Santa Clarita.

The twin fires were in addition to others devastating Southern California’s foothill communities. By 5 p.m. PT, the Thomas fire in Ventura County that had destroyed more than 150 homes and passed 50,000 acres. Another fire, dubbed the Little Mountain Fire, broke out Tuesday afternoon in San Bernardino County, though there were no immediate reports of lost structures.

The fires were burning largely at will. The only fire in which there was any containment was the Rye, at 5%. Firefighters were backed by water-dropping planes and helicopters, although sometimes they were unable to fly because of high winds.

“This is the start a multiple-day weather event so we’re not through this yet,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters at a briefing.

The Creek fire resulted in the closure of the Foothill (Interstate 210) Freeway, an important east-west connector in the metropolis. The Rye fire shut down Interstate 5, the state’s major north-south artery, although it reopened later.

Although there was significant destruction from the Creek Fire, both the Los Angeles County blazes paled in size compared to the largest fire (Thomas),  which had burned 45,000 acres. Heavy, gray smoke from the fires was visible across Los Angeles.

All three fires were driven by the strongest seasonal Santa Ana winds so far this year. Gusts of more than 45 miles per hour in the fire areas were picking up embers from the burning fields and structures, sending them wafting downwind where they set additional homes on fire. Temperatures were cool, however, in the 60s and 70s.

The Creek fire was listed at 11,000 acres. It began at 3:43 a.m. PT Monday, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Fire officials said there were two firefighter injuries, including one who was hurt when the bulldozer he was operating overturned.

The Rye fire had burned about 5,000 acres and was threatening structures near the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park with 1,300 homes under evacuation order.

Power outages were widespread. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s station in Santa Clarita reported its 911 emergency phone system had failed due to a power outage.

“Calls are being rerouted so you will get help!” the station tweeted.

Contributing: John Bacon

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