Brush Fire Races Through Canyon Country Amid Red Flag Conditions

The Tick Fire Burns In Canyon Country, California

CANYON COUNTRY (CNS) - A wildfire burning in Canyon Country jumped the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway this morning, prompting the closure of all lanes of the freeway and evacuation orders for neighborhoods south of the freeway, in addition to the 50,000 area residents already ordered to leave their homes.

The California Highway Patrol issued a SigAlert for the freeway between Golden Valley and Agua Dulce roads about 3:15 a.m.

New evacuation orders were issued this morning for all residents in the Sand Canyon area from the Antelope Valley Freeway to Placerita Canyon Road in Santa Clarita and the area east of Rolling Hills Avenue and north of Diver Street in Canyon Country, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's. Deputies could be seen going door-to-door through neighborhoods to tell residents to evacuate as wind-whipped flames raged nearby.

The Fair Oaks area south of the Antelope Valley Freeway in Canyon Country remained under a voluntary evacuation order, the sheriff's Santa Clarita Valley Station said.

The fire was only 5% contained after scorching at least 3,950 acres, damaging an unknown number of homes, threatening at least 10,000 more, prompting the evacuation of at least 50,000 residents and the cancellation of classes at several schools and two colleges.

In the city of Los Angeles, red flag parking restrictions ordered by the Los Angeles Fire Department will be in effect today to keep streets clear in case fire trucks have to be deployed.

The fire in Canyon Country was reported about 1:40 p.m. Thursday near the 31600 block of Tick Canyon Road, earning it the moniker Tick Fire, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Initially reported at 200 acres, the blaze rapidly grew to more than 850 acres in less than an hour, fire officials said.

Multiple structures could be seen burning to the ground as the wind carried flames ahead of the main blaze.

“The firefight will continue throughout the night,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said at a Thursday evening news conference. “We've had sustained 20 mph winds with 30 to 40 mph gusts. We're expecting stronger winds tonight through (Friday) morning.”

More than 500 firefighters from the L.A. County and Angeles National Forest fire departments were battling the fire along with four County Fire Department helicopters .

“Do not be lulled that you may not see open flames,” Osby said. “Because there are plenty of hot spots out in the incident, we'll have firefighters out all night trying to work on those hot spots and try to work on increasing our containment line.”

Evacuation orders were earlier issued for all residents north of the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, east of Whites and Plum Canyon roads, south of Vasquez Canyon Road and west of Agua Dolce. Evacuations were ordered south of the Antelope Valley Freeway east of Sand Canyon, north of Placerita Canyon and west of Robinson Ranch Golf Course.

“As we do the evacuation orders, know that (deputies) are behind all those neighborhoods that are evacuated,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. “There are deputies standing vigil all night long, all day, until (the neighborhoods) are repopulated.”

Residents with proper identification who live in the area east of Haskett Road between Davenport Road and the Antelope Valley Freeway were allowed back into their homes about 10 p.m. Thursday, the LASD said.

An evacuation center was set up at College of the Canyons in Valencia at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road.

College of the Canyons canceled all classes at its Valencia and Canyon Country campuses Thursday and announced the campuses would remain closed Friday. Classes were also canceled Friday for all schools in the Hart, Newhall and Saugus school districts.

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Thursday night campuses in the San Fernando Valley would be closed Friday due to air quality and safety concerns from the Tick Fire and other blazes burning in the area.

Community Elementary, Roscomare Road Elementary, Topanga Elementary Charter, Valley View Elementary, Wonderland Avenue Elementary and Elementary Day School will also be closed. All athletic activities at the affected schools will be canceled or postponed, according to the LAUSD.

A total of 15 schools run by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys canceled classes scheduled for Friday.

Those schools are:

-- De La Salle, 16535 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills;

-- Mary Immaculate, 10390 Remick Ave., Pacoima;

-- Our Lady of Grace, 17720 Ventura Blvd., Encino;

-- Our Lady of Lourdes Parish School, 18437 Superior St., Northridge;

-- Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 23225 Lyons Ave., Santa Clarita;

-- Our Lady of the Valley, 22041 Gault St., Canoga Park;

-- Santa Rosa de Lima,1316 Griffith St., San Fernando;

-- St. Bridget of Sweden, 7120 Whitaker Ave., Van Nuys;

-- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 4548 Haskell Ave., Encino;

-- St. Didacus, 14325 Astoria St., Sylmar;

-- St. Euphrasia, 17637 Mayerling St., Granada Hills;

-- St. John Eudes, 9925 Mason Ave., Chatsworth;

-- St. Ferdinand, 1012 Coronel St., San Fernando;

-- St. Joseph the Worker, 19812 Cantlay St, Winnetka.

St. Mel Elementary at 20874 Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills was previously scheduled to be closed Friday.

Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills also cancelled all of Friday's classes due to air quality, safety and transportation concerns caused by brush fires burning in the area.

School officials will monitor conditions and determine if evening events, including the homecoming football game, will take place. Updates for those events will be provided via phone, email and official social media accounts, the school said.

The Archdiocese added the list would be updated as schools report closures. Schools would inform parents directly if their child's campus is closed.

Large and small animals were being handled at the Castaic Animal Care Center at 31044 N. Charlie Canyon Road, sheriff's officials said.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

A Los Angeles County fire Sikorsky water-dropping helicopter was struck by a bird and sustained a damaged windshield. The chopper was able to land safely and its windshield was being repaired, Osby said.

National Weather Service forecasters said winds were gusting at 45 to 55 mph in the area of the fire.

Smoke from the Tick Fire prompted the South Coast Air Quality Management District to issue an unhealthy air quality advisory for residents in portions of northwest coastal Los Angeles County, the east and west San Fernando Valley, the Santa Clarita Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. The advisory was ordered to be in effect through Friday.

“It is difficult to tell where smoke, ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of these particles in the air, so we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy," said Dr. Muntu Davis, health officer for Los Angeles County.

“If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health.”

Residents, particularly those with sensitivity to air quality, were asked to avoid outdoor activity and remain indoors as much as possible. It was also recommended that pets be brought inside, particularly at night.

Schools and recreational programs in smoke-impacted areas were advised to suspend games and practices until conditions improve, Davis said.

Meanwhile, another brush fire erupted several miles to the west along the Golden State (5) Freeway in the Lake Hughes area. That fire scored about five to seven acres and burned through the roof of at least one home.

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the area, wrote on her Twitter page late Thursday afternoon that six homes had been lost in the Castaic area as a result of the blazes, but more homes could be seen burning Thursday evening in aerial TV news footage.

While crews were battling those two blazes, a third fire broke out in the Del Valle area west of the Golden State Freeway. According to county fire officials, that blaze damaged a vehicle and a mobile home, along with about one acre of brush.

The series of fires erupted amid red flag conditions prompted by Santa Ana winds and single-digit humidity. The red flag warning is scheduled to remain in place until Friday night.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced Thursday night that the state has been awarded a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help cover costs of efforts to fight the Tick Fire. The grant allows agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75% reimbursement of eligible firefighting costs.

Photo: Getty Images

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