SYLMAR (CNS) - Although they expect violent wind gusts, crews battling the Creek Fire in the hills above Sylmar will try to gain momentum today against a wind-driven blaze that has destroyed or damaged 30 homes and threatened thousands of others.
The fire, which has scorched 12,605 acres, broke out at 3:42 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Gold Creek and Little Tujunga roads in the Kagel Canyon area. Almost 1,700 firefighters and other personnel were deployed today against the fire, which was 10 percent contained.
At a late-morning news conference, Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said his agency -- ``for the first time ever'' -- will deploy drones to help coordinate the battle against the two wildfires that are burning in the city.
The drones primarily will be used to conduct property assessment as the LAFD surveys damage caused by the Creek Fire near Sylmar and the Skirball Fire in Bel Air and the Sepulveda Pass.
Terrazas reminded residents in various hillside areas that red-flag parking restrictions remain in effect.
``We need the roads to be clear in case there's a fire (so) our fire engines can gain access to put out that fire,'' Terrazas said.
And Terrazas said any donations to the fire department can be made at www.supportLAFD.org.
As of Thursday morning, the fire had destroyed 15 homes and damaged 15 others, officials said. Fire officials reported earlier that 30 homes had been destroyed.
Santa Ana winds gained strength Wednesday night, and powerful gusts were expected to kick up again Thursday. Some fire officials said they are battling ``hurricane-force'' winds.
Three firefighters suffered what were considered to be minor injuries Tuesday.
Virginia Padilla, whose family owns a ranch in Sylmar, told reporters the fire killed at least 30 of the ranch's horses. Padilla said she and her family were able to get out of her home just in time Tuesday morning but were not able to take their horses with them.
Evacuation orders first issued Tuesday were affecting about 110,000 households, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
``We realize what an inconvenience this is and how traumatic this is to so many people, but we've watched fires in Northern California, we've seen through experience it's much better to err on the side of safety,'' Garcetti said at a Wednesday afternoon news briefing.
All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and some on the west side of Los Angeles -- a total of 265 district schools and charter schools -- were closed Thursday and will remain shuttered Friday. A full list of closed schools was available at www.lausd.net.
Classes were canceled at Cal State Northridge because high winds and smoke in the San Fernando Valley have affected air quality and traffic conditions around the campus.
An estimated 2,500 structures were threatened by the Creek Fire at one point, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which was fighting the blaze in a unified command with the Los Angeles city and county fire departments.
Terrazas warned that the battle was likely to continue until at least Friday.
The LAFD's ``brush burning index'' that rates the fire danger was at 296 -- ``the highest number I've ever seen in my career,'' according to Terrazas. He said the usual threshold for extreme fire conditions is 165.
The LAPD was placed on a citywide tactical alert, which allows commanders to keep officers beyond the end of their shifts, giving them maximum flexibility in deploying resources.
As the fire burned on Tuesday, the Foothill (210) Freeway was closed in both directions between the Golden State (5) Freeway and the Glendale (2) Freeway, but the freeway had been reopened by Wednesday afternoon, according to the California Highway Patrol.
However, all westbound 210 Freeway exits from the 118 Freeway to the 5 Freeway are closed, and from Lowell Avenue to the 118 Freeway, sheriff's officials said. The eastbound 210 Freeway exits at Osborne Avenue, Wheatland Avenue, Sunland Boulevard, and La Tuna Canyon Road are also closed.
Mandatory evacuations remained in place Thursday for the area north of the 210 Freeway, from Glenoaks Boulevard to Haines Canyon Avenue, as well as south of the 210 Freeway, west of Sunland Boulevard and Stonehurst Avenue, and north of La Tuna Canyon Road.
The communities of Kagel Canyon, Lakeview Terrace, Sunland, Sylmar, Pacoima, Lopez Canyon and Shadow Hills also were under evacuation orders.
A dozen evacuation centers were opened throughout the San Fernando Valley, and all were accepting evacuees, including those with pets.
The fire also forced a mass evacuation of large animals, primarily horses but also others such as alpacas.
Many of the animals were being housed at Pierce College and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, which were at capacity Wednesday afternoon and not accepting additional animals.
Horses and other large animals can be brought to the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center at 11127 Orcas Ave. in Sylmar and the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds at 2551 W. Avenue H, in Lancaster.