La Tuna wildfire – now more than 5,000 acres – largest fire by acreage in Los Angeles city history, officials say



SUNLAND-TUJUNGA – At 5,000 acres, the La Tuna fire is now the largest fire ever by acreage in the city of Los Angeles, with its “unpredictable” destructive potential dependent on shifting winds and erratic weather, the city’s mayor and fire chief said Saturday morning.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti joined officials from his city and several others to update the public on the blaze, which has raged in the Verdugo Mountains since Friday afternoon.

Garcetti and others acknowledged the huge scope of the fire, which will surely grow, but added that a strong ring of fire personnel around it are in a position to halt its path.

“If things continue the way they are, despite the growth of this fire, I want to assure people that what we see on the ground is a fire we can contain,” Garcetti told reporters at a command post at the scene.

Officials said the “unpredictable” wildfire was 10 percent contained, as it threatened Burbank and Glendale. One home at Verdugo Crestline Drive and Alene Drive in Tujunga was destroyed, officials said. No one has been injured.

“Our biggest concern is the wind and weather,” L.A. Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas said. “If there’s no wind, this is a relatively easy fire to put out.”

But if there are random shifts in wind, coupled with triple-digit heat and low humidity, the blaze could become much more destructive, he added.

Garcetti tweeted at 9:02 a.m. that the wind was calm and there was “no immediate threat to homes.”

“It’s a backing fire,” Terrazas said, “meaning that it burns down a hill. And at the base of those hills, there’s some homes. So we’re making sure our fire engines are deployed so they can protect those homes when the fire gets there.”

Flames had crawled within a few hundred yards of homes as of Saturday morning, he said.

Officials requested four air tankers from the state to join resources already working on the La Tuna fire, Terrazas said. It was not clear when the large aircraft may arrive.

“Today we are still battling intense flames near structures especially in the city of Burbank,” LAFD Capt. Branden Silverman said. “Last night we didn’t see the fire lay down like we usually do in the evening. … We definitely recommend people living in the fire area be ready to go, have a plan and when the fire does start to get near them, get that plan in motion.”

Officials also announced that 300 homes have been evacuated in Burbank, 180 in L.A. and some additional homes in Glendale. Officials urge residents in the fire area to be ready to evacuate if the call comes, and to take their pets with them. About 500 firefighters are working on the blaze now, additional resources have been requested from the state, and about 100 L..A. Officials also expect local firefighters are expected back from Texas soon, where they’ve been helping survivors from Hurricane Harvey.

The city of Glendale announced mandatory evacuations in the Glenwood Oaks and Mountain Oaks areas at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, along with voluntary evacuations for the Whiteing Woods neighborhood.

Officers went door to door overnight to enforce the mandatory evacuations.

Burbank police directed evacuees to McCambridge Park at 1515 Glenoaks Blvd. in Burbank, and in Los Angeles an additional evacuation shelter was established at Sunland Recreation Center at 8651 Foothill Blvd.

The city of Glendale opened an evacuation center at the Civic Auditorium, 1401 N. Verdugo Road, and another evacuation center was established at Crescenta Valley High School, 2900 Community Ave. in La Crescenta, officials said.

Pets are welcome in the shelters, said Margaret Stewart of LAFD, which was working in a unified command with the Burbank Fire Department.

Authorities called for mandatory evacuations at 10:30 p.m. Friday for the Brace Canyon Park area of Burbank when the fire jumped the ridgeline. Firefighters performed structure defense operations to protect homes in the area.

Evacuated streets included: Haven Way from Rolling Ridge Drive to the top of the hill, Olney Place, Ramey Place, Mystic View, Lamer Street from Brace Canyon Road to Keystone Street, Brace Canyon Road above Rolling Ridge Drive, Groton Drive and Hamline Place, east of Stephen Road, and the community of Castlean Estates and Stough Canyon Nature Center.

The DeBell Golf Course at 1500 E. Walnut Ave. in Burbank also was evacuated earlier Friday, according to the Burbank Police Department, which reported portions of Walnut Avenue and Harvard Road were closed and were likely to remain closed Saturday.

In Tujunga, the McGroarty Park neighborhood was under mandatory evacuation orders Saturday morning, Terrazas said. Voluntary evacuations were in effect in Tujunga for the neighborhoods at Hillhaven Avenue and Alene Drive, as well as the area of Reverie Road and Haines Canyon.

The neighborhood along Wornom Avenue near Sunland Boulevard in Sunland was also under mandatory evacuation orders, while Terraazas said Shadow Island Drive and Worman Avenue south of Sunland Boulevard in Sunland were under voluntary evacuation orders.

“The air quality is bad,” said Burbank police Sgt. Derek Green. “With temperatures expected to reach the triple digits again today, we are asking people to please stay indoors and limit your recreational activities. Keep pets indoors and take care of each other.”

The fire prompted the shutdown of the 210 Freeway eastbound at the 118 Freeway and westbound at the 2 Freeway.

Transition roads were also closed from the eastbound 118 Freeway to the eastbound 210 Freeway, the northbound 2 Freeway to the westbound 210 Freeway, the northbound 2 Freeway at the 134 Freeway and the eastbound and westbound 134 Freeway to the northbound 2 Freeway, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP had no estimate on when the closures would be lifted.

The blaze broke out for unknown reasons at 1:25 p.m. Friday near the 10800 block of La Tuna Canyon Road, just south of the 210 Freeway.

Firefighters used night-vision goggles to make overnight water drops on the blaze, Stewart said.

About a half-acre of medium brush was on fire when the first crews arrived Friday afternoon. Wind-blown embers sparked a spot fire on the north side of the freeway and by 4 p.m., firefighters were battling flames on both sides of the freeway as the fire raced up a hillside of the Verdugo Mountains in the direction of Burbank.

Around 500 firefighters were battling the blaze, according to Stewart. Roughly 260 of those were from the LAFD, she said. The Los Angeles County, Angeles National Forest, Glendale, Pasadena and Burbank fire departments also sent units to help with the air and ground fire attack and structure protection.

Terrazas commended the work of the firefighters from numerous departments battling the blaze.

“I think it’s an amazing feat to not have lost a life. We’ve had a report of one structure on fire, which we’re aggressively attacking, and no reports of firefighter injuries,” he said. He attributed the success to strong working partnerships and coordination with neighboring fire agencies.

Staff writers Wes Woods II, Brian Day and City News Service contributed to this report.



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