Sand Fire: L.A. County Declares State of Emergency
Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday declared a local state of emergency for the Sand Fire.
The wildfire has torn through more than 58 square miles of dry brush, burned 18 homes and temporarily displaced about 20,000 people in Santa Clarita.
The move allows Gov. Jerry Brown to direct the state to take formal action to assist the county.
“This will provide the reimbursements for firefighting personnel because we have personnel from all over California in the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley fighting this fire,” said County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. “It will provide assistance for those who had their homes and property damaged.”
Once containment is reached, that funding will be used to create a relief center where those impacted by the fire can access all of the various services available to them, Antonovich told KPCC ahead of the vote.
Firefighters aided by calm winds and cool night air managed to tighten their hold on the fire, increasing containment to 25 percent by Tuesday morning.
Those calmer winds and higher humidity levels slowed the fire's growth, said Ralph Gonzales, a fire information officer and member of the Southern California Interagency Incident Management Team 3.
Winds that had gusted to as high as 25 mph on Sunday along ridgelines slowed considerably on Monday.
Firefighting efforts also benefited from a boost in personnel and resources.
More than 3,000 personnel were stationed outside the fire area by the end of the day Monday.
Tuesday after 11 a.m. is a period that fire crews are paying attention to, Gonzales said. Lower humidity, continued high temperatures and the terrain will influence the fire, he said.
Authorities said Tuesday morning the fire is moving on the east side toward Messenger Peak and Mount Gleeson.
Jay Nichols, with the Southern California Interagency Incident Management Team, said authorities are expecting minimal spread on the north side of the fire. The west side of the fire still has the potential to impact Sand Canyon and Placerita Canyon, he said.
Evacuation orders are still in place for those two communities. Almost everyone else is being allowed back home.
The county is seeking ways to lease or acquire more aerial firefighting equipment. The county currently has a contract for the use of four Canada-based Super Scoopers, massive amphibious planes that can scoop up and then drop more than 1,000 gallons of water without having to land. But the aircraft won’t be available for another month, when fire season ends in Canada.
“The contract is from September through January, and those were the fire seasons of the past, but now we have a fire season 52 weeks out of the year,” Antonovich said.
The county is considering different approaches to extend that coverage, including a year-round lease, hiring them directly or creating a joint powers authority to share the cost among different municipalities, Antonovich said.
The county has bumped up a lease for a helitanker, which should be available Monday, he said.
Authorities, meanwhile, have identified a man they say was killed in the Sand Fire.
The body of 67-year-old Robert Bresnick was discovered in a burned-out car outside a home on Saturday. The L.A. County coroner identified Bresnick Tuesday.
Bresnick was at a friend's house when officials ordered evacuations for the area, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief at the L.A. County Coroner's Office.
"He ignored the fire department's orders to evacuate, and went back in the house, then came out and got in his car, and apparently the fire overtook the vehicle," Winter told KPCC.
Bresnick's friend successfully evacuated, but Bresnick was declared dead at the scene. Winter said an autopsy is pending.
While most residents have been told they can return to their homes, officials warned a few areas are still closed.
The areas still under evacuation include:
Placerita Canyon Road from Running Horse Lane to Pacy Street
Little Tujunga Canyon Road from the Wildlife Way Station to Sand Canyon Road & Placerita Canyon Road
Aqua Dulce Canyon Road from quarter-mile south of the 14 Freeway to Soledad Canyon Road
Soledad Canyon Road 1 mile from Aqua Dulce Road in both directions
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a revised smoke advisory Tuesday, warning that the areas most affected will be Acton and into the Antelope Valley.
The smoke will likely move toward the north and northeast through the night and could settle in the valley overnight, according to AQMD.
The following areas are most likely to have unhealthy air because of smoke from the Sand Fire: