Saddleridge fire: 2 dead in California wildfires

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A wildfire whipped by the treacherous Santa Ana winds jumped two freeways northwest of Los Angeles overnight Friday, consuming more than 11 square miles, damaging at least 31 homes and forcing the evacuation of more than 100,000 people, authorities said.

“This is a very dynamic fire,” Los Angeles Fire chief Ralph Terrazas told reporters Friday, warning that the fire — dubbed the Saddleridge fire — was devouring 800 acres an hour. The blaze erupted late Thursday along the northern tier of the San Fernando Valley.

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Terrazas said the fire, as of Friday morning, was “zero” contained. The most immediate task, he said, was to use helicopters and “super scooper,” water-carrying, fixed-wing aircraft to establish some fire lines and stop it from spreading.

Authorities on Friday reported two people have died: A man in his 50s went into cardiac arrest and died near the Saddleridge fire. One person was killed in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, in the Sandalwood fire that earlier swept through a hilltop mobile home park, destroying 74 structures and damaging 16 others in Calimesa.

The chief said some 1,000 area firefighters were battling the Saddleridge fire. “Nobody is going home right away,” he said. “This event is going to take a few days.”

Authorities said the Saddleridge blaze started as a brush fire in Sylmar, the northernmost neighborhood of Los Angeles, and quickly spread, driven by the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that sweep down from the deserts and across coastal Southern California.

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“This is an extremely dynamic, high wind driven fire,” the LAFD said in an advisory.
In the Santa Susana Mountains near Porter Ranch, a Los Angeles neighborhood, the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility was evacuated and surrounded by firefighters and engines from both LA county and city departments fighting fires “in and around” the facility, a SoCal Gas update said.

A red flag warning was in effect in Southern California through Saturday evening, with winds expected to reach as high as 60 mph and some gusts hitting 70 mph in the mountains. Red flag warnings are issued when warm temperatures, very low humidities, and stronger winds are expected to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger.

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