SYLMAR (CBSLA) — A fast-growing brush fire has burned homes in the Sylmar area and prompted mandatory evacuations ordered of an estimated 12,700 homes in Porter Ranch, Oakridge Estates and into the Chatsworth area up to the Ventura County border.
The Saddle Ridge Fire was initially reported around 9 p.m. as a 1-acre brush fire burning near Yarnell Street, said Margaret Stewart with LA City Fire Department, but quickly grew to 1,600 acres as high winds, low humidity and dry brush combined to create perfect fire weather. By 3 a.m., the fire had grown to more than 4,000 acres and spread to the Newhall Pass, Granada Hills, and the Porter Ranch area.
Porter Ranch resident Josh Stokes was in a field near his home checking out the flames from the safety of a cleared field.
"It's been pretty crazy to watch, it's moving really fast," he said.
Stokes said he had seen the fire in Sylmar earlier, and didn't think it would be a problem for him at first.
"It was nowhere near Porter Ranch, so I figured we were completely fine," he said. "Then I got off the 118 on the way home, and I saw the fire trucks and everything, and I thought, 'oh, that looks a little suspicious' and then we got up here and turns out there's flames everywhere. That was all in the span of maybe a half hour or so."
Big stretches of the 5, 210 and 118 freeways have been shut down, and the traffic through the 14 and 118 freeways have been cut off.
SADDLE RIDGE FIRE: Evacuations And Freeway Closures
Residents of the Santa Clarita Valley and travelers on the southbound 5 Freeway will be diverted to State Route 126.
Commuters beyond the burning areas in Porter Ranch and Sylmar were urged to stay home, but that was not an option for LAPD and LAFD personnel in the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys who were instructed to meet at a restaurant parking lot in order to be escorted through the freeway closures.
Aerial water drops by Los Angeles city and county fire continued throughout the night as firefighters tried to contain the blaze that destroyed at least one commercial building and a number of homes as gusty winds continued to push the flames forward.
Stewart encouraged residents to keep the roads open for first responders and to evacuate as soon as they could.
"Grab your valuables and get out now," she said. "Right now, our priority is to protect property, life and limb."
The fire continued to grow as embers carried by heavy Santa Ana winds created a number of smaller spot fires fueled by the dry brush — eventually jumping both the 210 and the 5 freeways.
Just before 11 p.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department prepared to evacuate 280 youths from a juvenile facility. According to LASD, the children were given masks and wet clothes and were heading to Los Padrinos in Downey. All staff and students were said to be safe.
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