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25 Homes, More Than 7,500 Acres Burn In Saddleridge Fire Near Los Angeles

Water is dropped on a large brush fire in the early morning hours Friday in Sylmar, Calif. At least 25 structures have been destroyed.
David Swanson AP
Water is dropped on a large brush fire in the early morning hours Friday in Sylmar, Calif. At least 25 structures have been destroyed.

Updated at 6:04 p.m. ET

A quick-moving wildfire is churning through the foothills of Southern California, forcing local authorities to issue mandatory evacuations for some 100,000 people in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.

The blaze, which officials have named the Saddleridge Fire, ignited late Thursday in the city of Sylmar. By Friday morning, it had torched more than 7,500 acres, according to the latest alert by the Los Angeles Fire Department.

"This is a very dynamic fire," Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said at a Friday news conference.

At least 25 structures have been destroyed and more property assessments are planned throughout the day. And an estimated 23,000 homes are under estimated mandatory evacuations.

LAFD reports the fire is at 13% containment, with more than 1,000 firefighters assigned to combat it. Personnel from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service are on the scene, helping with the effort.

Jacob Margolis of member station KPCC described the scene from a first responders staging area at Hansen Dam, located in the city of Lake View Terrace, not far from the fire line.

"There are bulldozers, trailers," Margolis told NPR's Morning Edition on Friday.

"Really everyone is just trying to coordinate and figure out how to tackle the fires, especially before they creep into the neighborhood. And they've been doing that all night," he said.

Local officials say 276 minors at Sylmar's Barry J. Nidorf juvenile detention center were evacuated earlier in the day to another facility approximately 40 miles away in Downey.

"It was done out of an abundance of caution," said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Kathryn Barger at an afternoon news conference.

She also said Olive View Hospital is currently under a shelter-in-place order, but patients at a nearby urgent care center for mental health were evacuated and patients were moved to the main hospital.

Emergency officials say one civilian went into cardiac arrest and died at the hospital, and one firefighter sustained a minor injury to his eye. The officials did not provide details about those cases.

No cause of the fire has been determined. Terrazas said emergency officials received the first reports of the fire around 9 p.m. Thursday and that it was located near the 210 freeway at the Yarnell Street exit.

"Our first arriving companies reported significant fire with multiple homes threatened," Terrazas said. "We went into an aggressive offensive attack while simultaneously setting up our structure protection."

"Super scoopers and the Sky Crane are in operation this morning," LAFD said.

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., told reporter Friday he was one of the people who had to leave overnight.

"At 12:19 last night, I noticed our home was in the mandatory evacuation area and left our community of Renaissance in Porter Ranch," Sherman said.

He thanked first responders and urged others to adhere to warnings by emergency officials.

Strong Santa Ana winds, coupled with the area's dry chaparral landscape, have helped fuel the fire. The flames have forced the closure of several miles of the 118 and 210 freeways. Evacuation orders affect communities on both sides of Interstate 5 in the northernmost neighborhood in Los Angeles County. Other neighborhoods like Granada Hills and Porter Ranch were also evacuated.

Officials say the fire started out about 1 acre, but soon morphed into a wind-driven fire that "quickly pushed across Sylmar."

The National Weather Service said a wind advisory and a red flag warning are in effect.

"A moderate to strong Santa Ana wind event will continue to bring dangerous fire weather conditions to most of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties through late Friday afternoon," NWS said in its latest alert.

The agency adds, "Wind gusts between 45 and 55 mph are expected across coastal and valley areas, with gusts between 55 and 75 mph in the foothills and mountains."

NWS warns that windy, dry conditions will bring the "potential for very rapid fire spread, long range spotting, and extreme fire behavior."

Earlier Friday, LAFD tweeted that some evacuation centers like one at Granada Hills Recreation Center were full, but it added that others were opening up.

For days, California utility companies have been preemptively cutting off power out of fear that high wind gusts could blow power lines into trees, sparking dangerous fires.

Southern California Edison cut off power to more than 21,000 customers under its Public Safety Power Shutdown in Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

The utility also said it is considering shutting off an additional 223,000 customers' power.

Gas utilities are also taking action. As the LAist news site reports:

"SoCalGas officials said personnel at their gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon had been evacuated by fire authorities. In an email responding to questions, they said multiple fire engines and firefighters from the city and county were fighting the fire "in and around the Aliso Canyon facility.

The fire raised concerns that the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch might cause another gas leak like the one that spewed methane into the air in 2015 and 2016. Last year the company reached a $119.5 million settlement with several government entities.

On Friday SoCalGas tweeted: "No indications of damage or leaks at the facility."

Earlier in the week PG&E;, the state's largest utility, began proactively shutting off power to roughly 800,000 customers in Northern and Central California, impacting nearly 2.5 million people, according to one estimate.

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