PORTER RANCH (CNS) - Firefighters worked this morning to increase containment of the Saddleridge Fire in the northern San Fernando Valley ahead of 20 to 35 mph winds and a chance of red flag conditions this weekend as people who live in the fire area blasted the city of Los Angeles for its handling of the blaze.
“Crews will take advantage of the conditions... to make progress and bolster containment lines,” the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement Wednesday night.
The fire has burned an estimated 8,391 acres destroyed 19 homes and damaged 88 more since it erupted about 9 p.m. Thursday off the westbound Foothill (210) Freeway near Yarnell Street and Saddle Ridge Road in Sylmar.
It quickly spread due to wind-blown embers that jumped the Golden State (5) Freeway spreading flames into Granada Hills and Porter Ranch. It was 52% contained Wednesday evening, the LAFD said.
Residents who attended a community meeting claimed the city's reverse 911 system that was supposed to call residents in the event of an emergency didn't work, ABC7 reported.
The city blamed cell towers that suffered damage in the fire, the station said.
One Granada Hills resident told ABC7 her cousin in Thousand Oaks was the one who sent her the mandatory evacuation message.
The cause of the fire remained undetermined, but the point of origin was identified by LAFD arson investigators as a 50-foot-by-70-foot area beneath a high voltage transmission tower, officials said.
“There is no evidence of a homeless encampment in the immediate area,” according to the LAFD. “In addition to LAFD personnel, there are investigators from Southern California Edison and private insurance companies at the site. Investigators continue to work around the clock in steep terrain, thoroughly examining all aspects of the scene in an attempt to determine a cause.”
Various media reports Friday cited a witness claiming the first flames erupted at the base of a Southern California Edison transmission tower along Saddle Ridge Road.
On Monday, Southern California Gas Co. crews alerted firefighters about flames burning in a roughly 4-foot-by-4-foot patch of soil on the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility property in Porter Ranch, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
“The small fire does not pose a risk to public safety and there are no impacts to SoCalGas operations at the facility,” according to the LAFD. “SoCalGas, Fire Departments and Public Health are investigating.”
That fire was extinguished on Tuesday afternoon, according to SoCalGas.
The utility said it believes the fire was from old crude oil activity, but won't know for certain until the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the Air Quality Management District conducts its own tests, ABC7 reported.
Southern California Gas Co. officials stressed there was no damage to any equipment at the storage facility and no sign of any leaks. The small fire did not “pose a risk to public safety and there are no impacts to SoCalGas operations at the facility,” according to the Gas Co.
Videos of what appeared to be fires within the sewer system at the Porter Ranch Town Center alarmed some residents who thought the flames might be connected to the extinguished Aliso Canyon flame. Investigators believe there is no connection and have not witnessed any active underground fire threats in the area, according to the LAFD's Nicholas Prange.
Neighbors have told reporters 54-year-old Aiman Elsabbagh died of a heart attack Friday morning in the Porter Ranch area while trying to protect his home from the fire. LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said the man was speaking to firefighters when he went into cardiac arrest, and he died at a hospital.
Los Angeles Park Ranger Capt. Alberto Torres, 67, suffered a heart attack Friday at Ranger Headquarters at the Griffith Park Visitor Center, at 4730 Crystal Springs Drive and died the next morning at a hospital.
Torres -- a ranger for more than 40 years -- had been patrolling the parks impacted by the fire.
Eight firefighters suffered minor injuries, including one with an eye injury, the LAFD said.