About 20,000 residents remained out of their homes Monday morning as the 51-square-mile Sand Fire continued to burn in Southern California’s Santa Clarita Valley.
The fire has burned about 10,000 acres per day since it began Friday in the hills north of Los Angeles.
“It has averaged about 10,000 acres per day,” said Chief Mike Wakoski, incident commander. “An acre is a football field, so imagine that — 10,000 football fields per day.”
Shifting winds have fanned the flames, which raced through neighborhoods and destroyed homes. One death, a man whose burned body was found in a scorched vehicle, was reported in the fire zone.
“This fire, what we’ve seen in 72 hours, is almost unprecedented,” said Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion Chief Dennis Cross. “We’d have to go back a long way to compare a fire to this. And, we’re not through with this thing yet.”
Eighteen homes were lost to the fire by Sunday night as thousands were forced to flee their homes, worrying if they would still be standing by Monday morning. The fire was only at 10 percent containment Monday morning and more than 1,500 homes were threatened.
“We’re really relying on aircraft and bulldozers out ahead of this thing to try and pinch it off, but as you’re seeing with 100-foot flame lengths, it’s crossing bulldozer lines, aircraft isn’t able to keep it in check and we’re playing this game of hopscotch,” Cross said.
About 10,000 homes were evacuated. Some evacuees were about to return home Sunday when unexpected winds stirred up the blaze that ignited two days earlier in brush withered by days of 100-degree temperatures and years of drought.
Juliet Kinikin said Sunday that there was panic as the sky became dark with smoke and flames moved closer to her home a day earlier in the Sand Canyon area.
“And then we just focused on what really mattered in the house,” she told The Associated Press.
Kinikin grabbed important documents and fled with her husband, two children, two dogs and three birds.
Residents were ordered to leave their homes on Agua Dulce Canyon Road north to the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, Crown Valley north to the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway and all of Soledad Canyon between those two areas. By Sunday evening, residences from Golden Valley Road to Sand Canyon, excluding the Sand Canyon Mobile Home Park, were evacuated.
Evacuation centers were in place at Highland High School at 39055 25th Street West in Palmdale; at Hart High School at 24825 Newhall Ave. in Santa Clarita; and at Lakeview Terrace Recreation Center at 11075 Foothill Boulevard.
The Sand Canyon exit on the northbound 14 Freeway was to remain closed. There is no entry into Sand Canyon from Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon roads; no access to Sand Canyon, Soledad Canyon Road and Placerita Canyon, Agua Dulce Canyon Road or Crown Valley Road from the 14 Freeway; Sand Canyon Road was shut down east of Placerita Canyon to 12300 Little Tujunga Canyon Road.
The fire is burning in hillsides left dry after five years of drought in California. A strong El Nino weather pattern failed to deliver rain in Southern California, raising concerns about what could be one of the worst fire seasons on record.
Smoke from the blaze blanketed Southern California, causing air quality concerns as ash rained down.
A wildfire burning 300 miles up the coast near Big Sur claimed six homes, burning 17 square miles. It was 5 percent contained by Sunday evening.