Fires close schools, roads

first_imgWith thousands of acres scorched across the Southland as of late Sunday, motorists can expect new challenges today with the closure of dozens of roads, routes and schools. More than 1,200 acres burned in the Malibu area as of late Sunday as winds blew hot embers and knocked down power lines. Meanwhile, more than 20,000 acres had burned across Canyon Country. The flames forced officials late Sunday to close dozens of routes in both regions as they battled to bring the blazes under control. In Malibu, road closures included Malibu Canyon Road between Pacific Coast Highway and Piuma Road and most of Pacific Coast Highway between Kanan Dume Road and Topanga Canyon Boulevard. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.In the Santa Clarita region, road closures included Agua Dulce Canyon Road at Sierra Highway, Copper Hill Drive at San Francisquito Canyon Road, Sierra Highway and Bouquet Canyon Road at David Way, and Sierra Highway and Bouquet Canyon Road at Vasquez. Meanwhile, Pepperdine University’s campus in Malibu – virtually surrounded Sunday by the conflagration – was set to be closed today. Viewpoint School in Calabasas is closed, but is expected to reopen Tuesday. Closures also were announced for all campuses in the Castaic, Newhall and Saugus Union School districts; The Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District; and the William S. Hart Union High School District. Tutor Time preschools in Santa Clarita and Canyon Country also are closed. Schools are open in the Las Virgenes, Gorman and Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes districts.Buckweed Fire In Agua Dulce, firefighters this morning had about a 10 percent containment on a brush fire that forced hundreds of people to flee their homes as it scorched about 15,000 acres in the Canyon Country. The so-called Buckweed Fire began in Mint Canyon west of Agua Dulce about 1 p.m. yesterday and spread quickly amid offshore winds blowing about 40 mph, a Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatcher said. Sheriff Lee Baca said the blaze would take three or four days to extinguish. Offshore winds rotating clockwise around a high-pressure system parked over the Four Corners are forecast to persist through Tuesday, though the peak of the windstorm is believed to have passed. Four people, including a firefighter, were injured in the fire yesterday. In Agua Dulce, about 25 structures have been leveled. Evacuations were ordered in Vasquez, Bouquet and San Francisquito canyons. Shelters were set up at Quartz Hill High School, 6040 W. Avenue L, and at Saugus High School, 21900 Centurion Way. Classes were canceled at most schools in Santa Clarita. Baca asked residents in fire areas to limit their travel and to keep the roads clear for fire equipment. About 400 firefighters were assigned to the Buckweed Fire, and another 200-300 were expected to join the battle later this morning, fire officials said. “We want to reassure the public that significant fire resources and law enforcement resources” are on the scene, Baca said. A section of Sierra Highway was closed because of burnt power lines, and the bridge at Vasquez and Bouquet Canyon roads was “virtually destroyed” in the blaze, he said. Ranch Fire In Castaic, firefighters had contained by 10 percent a wind-driven fire that broke out in the Angeles National Forest near Castaic that blackened more than 12,000 acres. The so-called Ranch fire, which broke out about 9:45 Saturday night, 8 miles northwest of Castaic near Townsend Peak, blackened about 12,000 acres in northern Los Angeles County and was burning south southwest, away from the Golden State (5) Freeway, said Barbara Croonquist of the U.S. Forest Service. No injuries have been reported, she said. The fire was 10 percent contained early today. One mobile home and one outbuilding have been destroyed. About 300 homes are threatened, Croonquist said. More than 1,000 residents were evacuated, Fox11 reported. Residents in Hasley Canyon and Oak Canyon were evacuated, Croonquist said. A shelter was set up at the Fillmore Veterans Memorial Building in Fillmore and livestock was being housed at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, she said. “In the path of the fire are a couple of hundred homes scattered on private land north of Piru,” said Kathy Peterson of the U. S. Forest Service. “They are private residences, ranch homes and that kind of thing.” Peterson added that “if the wind were blowing due west, it would burn into where the Day Fire burned last year. But as it is, it’s burning in chaparral south of where the Day Fire was.” Peterson, based at the Angeles National Forest headquarters in Arcadia, said the chaparral in the area is about 40 years old. The cause of the blaze was under investigation. Firefighters were contending with winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts up to 60 miles per hour, coupled with low relative humidity and temperatures ranging from the 80s to the 90s. About 650 personnel from several agencies were assigned to the fire, along with 32 fire engines, 13 hand crews, one helitanker, six helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft, five bulldozers and nine water tenders, Croonquist said. Old Highway 99 was closed at Templin Highway. The fire destroyed a church, a glass shop and five homes in an exclusive Malibu neighborhood as Santa Ana winds fed flames that raged down Malibu Canyon to the sea and fire officials said they expect the blazes to continue for at least several days. Malibu fire At least 1,200 acres have burned and the city of Malibu issued mandatory evacuation notices for more than 200 residents in Puerco and Sweetwater canyons and Malibu Colony. Fire crews first got word around 4:50 a.m. that flames had broken out, possibly from sparking powerlines and began attacking a “rapid, aggressive fire” that spread to an area north of Pacific Coast Highway and about one mile west of Pepperdine University. “We still do not have any containment,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman, at a 4:30 p.m. press conference. “Progress has been made, but this is a very dynamic and potentially dangerous situation.” Officials were warning residents along the beach on Malibu Road that they may soon be evacuated, as they braced for the potential that the fire could jump Pacific Coast Highway. By 4:30 p.m., officials had evacuated 1,500 people throughout the region. Residents in those areas are advised to head to the west, and evacuation centers were set up at Zuma Beach and Agoura Hills High School. An additional information center will open at 5:30 p.m. at Malibu High School and sheriff’s deputies will be available along PCH for residents with questions. Details of the houses that burned were not available, but flames engulfed Malibu Presbyterian Church on Malibu Canyon Road and licked all the way up its steeple. By afternoon, only a few columns remained. Officials also said Castle Kashan, a faux castle built in the 1970s also burned. The castle is the home of Lilly Lawrence, a Malibu philanthropist. LA County Fire Chief Michael Freeman said about 700 personnel in the air and on the ground were battling the blazes, with more than 300 en route to help battle the fires. Crews from as far away as Orange County arrived to fill local stations until the emergency passes. Embers from the fires were igniting trees and lit a silver Jaguar ablaze as they were pushed by the wind throughout the area. Fire officials said at a 4:30 p.m. press conference that the fire was uncontained and they project it will continue to several days – “threatening thousands of homes” – because of the sustained winds. The blaze damaged at least nine other homes and nine businesses. “In Los Angeles County, the Canyon Fire has burned several hundred acres so far and poses a serious threat to nearby communities,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “My administration is working closely with federal and local officials; we will continue to mobilize the necessary resources to fight all of these fires.” His office said at least 400 fire engines were on scene, with 10 air tankers from the Cal Fire strike team engaged or on standby. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said more than 100 law enforcement personnel responded to support operations. The fire had burned three miles from its point of ignition to Pacific Coast Highway. Trees at the Malibu Colony Shopping Center were reportedly on fire, and the fire has burned down to Bluffs Park. The fire is burning in two prongs on both sides of Malibu Canyon. The eastern prong was within several hundred feet of numerous multi-million dollar houses in Serra Estates. The western prong began in rough mountains north of Hughes Research Laboratory and headed toward Pepperdine University. Students at Pepperdine returned to their dorm rooms by mid-afternoon, but the school cancelled classes on Monday. With the driest winter on record this year, which followed the wettest in history in 2006, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the fire came as no surprise. “We were crusing for a bruising,” Yaroslavsky said at the afternoon press conference. “We are very lucky that the damage has been limited, but it’s not over yet.” Power in much of Malibu was reportedly out, and Pacific Coast Highway is closed between Kanan-Dume Road and Topanga Canyon Road. Meanwhile, Los Angeles city firefighters said they expected full containment of a three- to five-acre brush fire today in the Porter Ranch area. That fire broke out in the area of Tampa Avenue and Sesnon Boulevard at 5:50 a.m., said Los Angeles city fire spokesperson Ron Myers. At least 100 fire personnel were sent to the scene. No structures were threatened and no evacuations were ordered as firefighters contend with 20 to 30 miles winds blowing in a northeasterly direction. The fires are being fanned by high winds and the National Weather Service has issued red-flag warnings for Los Angeles and Ventura counties from 3 a.m. today through 4 p.m. Tuesday. Many Topanga Canyon residents, looking to get back to their homes or loved ones, waited in frustration for authorities to let them through on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Bruce Kaplan gritted his teeth and braced himself for a drive back to the San Diego freeway (405-N), then over to the Ventura Freeway (101 N) to try to get to the canyon’s north end. “It’s going to take an extra hour to get there,” he said. “We’ve lived here just over a year. We’re new to this.” A steady northward current between 35 and 50 mph, with gusts up to 100 mph, fueled the flames and made aerial firefighting even more challenging. Temperatures as high as 90 degrees choked most of Southern California and the National Weather Service sees no relief until Tuesday afternoon. On Saturday, blowing sand and dust forced the California Highway Patrol to close two freeways in the Antelope Valley, where drivers had zero visibility. The Santa Anas came as no surprise, said Bill Hoffer, an NWS spokesman, but they turned what would otherwise be merely sneeze-inducing into a nightmarish-looking haze that smudged out the whole sky. “I feel like the outside air’s taken over my smoking habit,” Hoffer coughed. “This happens every year at this time, but it looks bloody horrible because trees are blowing up…. It can blow mother-in-laws right out of their lawn chairs.” Fierce west winds forced officers to close the Antelope Valley Freeway near Lancaster at 3:15 p.m., leaving four miles of asphalt closed. To the north, Route 58 was closed to all traffic between Mojave and Tehachapi Pass because of more blowing dust. About 30 miles to the west, winds of 55 mph were blamed for a four-car crash that blocked the southbound lanes of the Golden State Freeway south of the Grapevine. No serious injuries were reported. Surf up to 15 feet was expected to pummel beaches in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The Los Angeles County Fire Department on Saturday added firefighters, dispatched strike teams and put its dozen helicopters on high alert. Two Erikson Aircrane helicopters, two fixed-wing Super Scoopers and a firefighting DC-10 were also at the ready. Residents in brush areas were warned to report any sign of smoke, use caution with equipment in grassy areas and have an evacuation plan – with at least two exit routes – in place. At 8 a.m. today, parking restrictions will go into effect in fire-prone areas of Los Angeles because of the conditions. As the sun began to dip below the horizon, helicopter crews prepared to follow it. While LA County and LA City fire crews can fly past sundown by using night vision equipment, Freeman said the air units had been fighting all day and needed to stand down. “The darkness just increases the danger,” he said. “We are a long way from being out of the woods on this.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. 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