Raging Sayre Fire grows to 8,000 acres

November 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A massive wildfire above Sylmar, dubbed the 'Sayre Fire', has grown to 8,000 acres and is 20 percent contained.The wildfire grew rapidly after jumping the 210 and 5 freeways, forcing thousands to evacuate.

Evacuation orders stretched from the Pacoima Canyon, across the northern border of the city of Los Angeles to Granada Hills, all the way to Reseda. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has declared a local emergency.

"We are at the mercy of the winds," Villaraigosa said in a news conference.
"We know that we've lost dozens of structures," Villaraigosa said at a news conference Saturday morning.

Fire officials said the Oakridge Mobile Home Park has sustained "almost total devastation," adding that streets signs in the park had been melted by flames when 70 mph winds blew through the area earlier. The destruction of 500 mobile homes forced Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency for Los Angeles County.

Officials have also reported that a total of nine homes have also been destroyed.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton says he's concerned that some people may have died in the mobile home park reduced to ashes by fire. No deaths have been reported but Bratton says police have to wait until the ground cools to bring in search dogs.

Meanwhile, five injuries have been confirmed, including one county firefighter and four city firefighters, according to d'Lisa Davies of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Bratton notes that many elderly people lived at the park and might have had a hard time getting out. He also says there are many burned cars at the park, even though people who evacuate usually take their vehicles.

The Los Angeles Police Department arrested five people for looting, and a curfew will be in effect for young people, although the details were not immediately released.

L.A. City Fire Capt. Steve Ruda described the devastation at the mobile home park to residents at the Sylmar High School evacuation center, advising them "prepare yourselves for the worst." Flames "literally burned (homes) to the ground," Ruda said to the residents.

About 1,400 firefighters from across the state continue to battle the wildfire, but because of flames reaching over 50 feet high at the mobile home park, crews rapidly left the area, Ruda said.

As mobile home residents heard the heart-breaking news, an official brought out a tattered American flag that was saved from a destroyed mobile home as a sign of hope and a symbol of the bravery of the firefighters.

MANDATORY EVACUATIONS: The entire area north of the 210 Freeway and north of the 5 Freeway near the State Route 14 interchange is under evacuation orders, extending east to Hubbard Street and Pacoima Canyon.

The LAPD are allowing all persons evacuated from areas west of the Golden State 5 Freeway to return home. Areas evacuated in Sylmar, Pacoima and near Olive View Hospital remain closed to all members of the public. But all sections of Porter ranch and Granada Hills have been reopened.

Officials advised evacuating residents to move out of the area quickly, and to allow room on roads for firefighting personnel moving toward the blaze. California Highway Patrol was assisting with traffic control on the 210 Freeway; all non-essential personnel have been advised to avoid the area at this time.

Approximately 10,000 people are being evacuated.

EVACUATION CENTERS: Sylmar High School, at 13050 Borden Ave. in Sylmar, and San Fernando High School, at 11133 O'Melveny Ave., in San Fernando. Chatsworth High School, Kennedy High School, Pierce College and Hansen Dam have been added to the list of evacuation centers.

Check the interactive Google map for a list of evacuation centers.

ANIMAL EVACUATIONS: Dept. of Animal Services: Horses can be taken to the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center at Foothill Blvd. and Orcas Ave. Other animals can be taken to Mission Animal Center at 15321 Brand Blvd. in Mission Hills, or to the athletic fields at both high-school evacuation centers.

ROAD CLOSURES:

The 210 Hubbard Ave. on- and off-ramps are closed

The 210 Osborne St. on- and off-ramps are closed

14 Freeway closed northbound at I-5

14 Freeway closed southbound at Placerita Canyon

SURFACE STREET CLOSURES: Northbound from each of the following intersections:

Bledsoe Street and Foothill Boulevard;

Filbert Street and Foothill Boulevard;

Rinaldi Street and Woodley Avenue;

Balboa Boulevard and San Fernando Street;

Hubbard Street and Eldridge Avenue;

Eldridge Avenue and Sayre Street;

Shablow Avenue and Gavina Avenue;

Gavina Avenue and Hubbard Street;

Foothill Boulevard and Osborne Street;

Rinaldi Street and Balboa Boulevard;

Foothill (210) Freeway northbound off-ramp at Osborne Street; and

Osborne Street north of Foothill Boulevard.

Temperatures in the fire area are in the 90s, and wind gusts are blowing at about 50 mph. Flames are being pushed west to the Sesnon Fire area, which may help slow the wildfire, Ruda said.

The fire was reported at 10:30 p.m. Friday, and quickly flared up and burned several hillsides north of where the 118 and 210 freeways intersect at the base of the Angeles National Forest, just above Veterans Memorial County Park.

The fire is within L.A. City Fire Department's jurisdiction; L.A. County Fire is assisting at the scene. A staging area has been set up near El Choriso Regional County Park. About 20 fire engines responded to the fire call Friday night, according to an L.A. Fire Dept. spokesperson.

Water-dropping helicopters had to deal with violent Santa Ana winds amplified by the foothills terrain, slowing down the pace of the battle.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. Arson investigators were on scene early Saturday morning.

RESOURCES:

Sayre Fire Evacuation Hotline: (800) 439-2909

Human Services, Shelter and Special Needs Assistance, L.A. County: 2-1-1 or (800) 339-6993

American Red Cross, Los Angeles Chapter: (888) 737-4306

City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services: (888) 452-7381

Sylmar High School
13050 Borden Ave
Sylmar, CA 91342
(818) 833-3700

San Fernando Senior High School
11133 O'Melveny Ave
San Fernando, CA 91340
(818) 898-7600

Chatsworth High School
10027 Lurline Ave
Chatsworth, CA 91311


Kennedy High School
11254 Gothic Ave
Granada Hills, CA 91344
For information on patients evacuated from Olive View UCLA Medical Center, call (323) 869-2626.

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