All photos courtesy of Cesar Barillas

Saddleridge, Calif.–A fire erupted late Thursday night near the 210 Freeway and Yarnell Street in the Sylmar area. The fire forced mandatory evacuations for 100,000 residents in the San Fernando Valley in 23,000 homes. Multiple evacuation centers were set up in the San Fernando Valley and Lyft offered free rides to those going to evacuation centers.

“It’s not a good feeling, let me put it this way, this is Porter Ranch— [it’s] not the first time and probably won’t be the last but this time it got really close to us,” said Porter Ranch resident Masud Zahedi the morning after the fire started. Zahedi has lived in the Porter Ranch area for 18 years and was one of the many residents who were forced to evacuate. 

The blaze, which torched 8,391 acres and destroyed 75 buildings, is currently at 44 percent containment, according to the latest reports. Schools and roads were closed throughout the San Fernando Valley, including California State Northridge and College of The Canyons. Smoke advisories were also announced by South Coast Air Quality Management District for large parts of Los Angeles County and extended to Sunday. 

“It’s amazing how fast they could get on it—otherwise it’s going to be a chain reaction as one house could catch on fire and leads to another,” said Zahedi, referring to the hard work of the 1,000 firefighters from multiple agencies who fought the blazes day and night. Dry Santa Ana winds played a major role in the Saddleridge fires, causing much of the spread.

“I’ve signed an emergency declaration for the Saddleridge fire directing Los Angeles city agencies to take all necessary steps to protect lives and property threatened by this fire,” tweeted Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti on Friday. “Calling on our County and State partners to support us with the resources and collaboration we need.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California was able to secure a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) for resources to battle Saddleridge fire. The Fire Management Assistance Grant applied 75 percent reimbursement to local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire. 

Fire crews took advantage of the weak Santa Ana winds during the weekend and into Monday, according to officials. On Saturday reports showed 7,965 acres were burned and the fire was at 33 percent containment, with 31 buildings were destroyed. On Saturday evening, the Los Angeles Fire Department lifted all evacuation orders related to Saddleridge fire. 

“I’m concerned about repository problems because I’m 80 and I want to be careful to only go out when necessary,” said Barbara Vahl, a resident who drove to the Porter Ranch Walmart to buy food only to find it closed due to the fires. “This morning the smell of smoke woke me up and I went outside, and I just knew I couldn’t stay out there.”

On Monday, a Southern California Edison high-voltage transmission tower in the area of Sylmar was determined as the start of Saddleridge fire, according to county authorities. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.  According to Socal Edison, the company de-energized certain power lines to prevent a fire on Thursday and Friday, but the transmission line that is located in Sylmar was not.

Written ByJorge Ventura

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