Horses, Alpacas, Sheep and Houses Under Fire

by David DeMullé

About 3 a.m. on Tuesday the calls started coming in about a fire on the Little Tujunga Canyon Rd. in Lake View Terrace. Driven by Santa Ana winds, the fire quickly engulfed the Padilla Ranch as ranch hands moved vehicles out of the fire’s path and tried to corral more than 50 horses and 30 sheep that were trapped.

Dale Gibson’s ranch on Wentworth was in flames as crew and volunteers scrambled to move his livestock to safety. As the day progressed, the fire ran up the mountainside of Kagle Canyon and crossed over to the Riverwood Ranch area threatening homes there.

An emergency command center was set up at the Hansen Dam Recreational Center as resources from as far away as Vallermo arrived to coordinate the fire resources and map out the strategy of attacking the fire.

State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino and CD-7 Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez were there to be briefed by the city and county fire chiefs and to show their support for those people that had their homes and businesses deestroyed.

LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said, “Our people are working hard. They know our mission to protect life and property is critical,” and Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the conditions were very challenging for crews because of the shifting winds. “We’re in an extreme firefight,” the chief said. “We had a very warm, dry summer, our fuels are at critical levels, and they’re very explosive, as you can see right now.”

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told residents that if they’re in the evacuation zone, they need to leave.

“This will not be the only fire,” Beck said. “We’re going to be hardpressed to meet all the resources throughout the city and the county of Los Angeles due to this weather event, and if you stay in your homes, you cause our resources to be diverted to take care of you.”

As the briefing progressed, the area became filled with a dark dense smoke that was crossing Osborn into the Hansen Dam area. We left and headed up to Tujunga to document the fire crossing the ridge towards Riverwood Ranch. Within an hour, mandatory evacuations were enacted. The fire continued down the Big Tujunga Canyon channel and jumped the 210 freeway entering Shadow Hills and destroying eight houses while we were in route.

The fire destroyed 30 homes, injured three firefighters and burn 11,000 acres by Tuesday night. Areas of Foothill and Sunland Blvd. as well as freeway onramps were closed throughout Tuesday.

More than 100 patients were voluntary evacuated from convalescent homes on Fenwick across from Sunland Park.

LAUSD Board Member Kelly Gonez said the following schools would be closed Wednesday due to the blaze:

Mount Gleason Middle School

Verdugo Hills High School

Apperson Street Elementary School

Mountain View Elementary School

Pinewood Elementary

Pinewood Early Education Center

Stonehurst Elementary

Clear Creek Outdoor Education Center

Logan Elementary

Heliotrope Elementary

Brainard Elementary

Mount Lukens Continuation High School

Plainview Elementary School

Plainview Early Education Center

Sunland Elementary

More than a dozen area schools were also expected to be closed, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said.

The blaze was zero precent contained Tuesday, and more than 20 square miles of residential property had been evacuated. The fire jumped the 210 Freeway and burned in Shadow Hills, where residents scrambled to evacuate hundreds of horses, packs of alpacas and other four-legged animals. About 20 of the 30 homes burned were in Little Tujunga, Kagel and Lopez canyons, officials said.

Sheriff’s deputies and Los Angeles Police Department officers started with early evacuations in the 12300 block of Little Tujunga Road down to Foothill Boulevard, according to LAPD Officer Norma Eisenman.

More than 100 patients were voluntarily evacuated from Mountain View Convalescent Center on Fenton Avenue in Sylmar with the help of LAFD ambulances and MTA buses, LAFD officials said.

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