Firefighters continue battling largest fire in Los Angeles history

The La Tuna Canyon fire burns in the hills above Burbank, California, early September 2, 2017. The brush fire which quickly burned 2,000 acres started on September 1 and was being driven by heat wave temperatures and high winds. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES —

California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency for Los Angeles County Sunday due to the ongoing La Tuna brush fire near Burbank.

Since the fire started Friday, it has burned more than 5,895 acres, forced residents to evacuate from their homes, shut down an interstate and sent massive plumes of smoke into the air.

Gov. Brown’s declaration will allow state personnel and equipment to be used in fighting the fires, at the direction of the California Office of Emergency Services.

More than 1,000 firefighters from the immediate region and throughout California are battling the fire, which has destroyed three homes and damaged one other, Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said during a press conference Sunday. Burbank is in Los Angeles County.

There are 206 fire engines and nine helicopters dedicated to fighting the fire, Terrazas said. Two firefighters have suffered heat-related illnesses, but are in stable condition.

The fire remains at 10% containment since it started Friday and tore through the La Tuna Canyon Park area of the Verdugo Mountains, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. A section of Interstate 210 remained closed Sunday as a result of the fire and its smoke.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a declaration of local emergency Saturday instructing all city agencies to “take all necessary steps to protect life and property in the area” affected by what is now the largest fire the city has ever seen.

“The La Tuna Canyon Fire is an emergency that requires all available resources to protect our residents and keep our homes and other structures out of harm’s way,” Garcetti said in a statement.

Mandatory and voluntary evacuations were taking place, Capt. Branden Silverman said Saturday, but there were no reports of injuries. He suggested that everyone in the Los Angeles area have a plan to evacuate if the need arises.

Garcetti said in a news conference earlier Saturday that 300 homes in Burbank and 180 homes in Los Angeles were under evacuation orders.

At least 100 firefighters who were sent to Houston to help in Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts were heading back to California to help with the fire, Terrazas said at the Saturday news conference.

According to Terrazas, it is the largest fire, by acreage, that the Los Angeles city area has ever seen.

Hot temperatures and high winds on Friday in the Los Angeles area contributed to the “large plume growth and extreme fire behavior,” the National Weather Service office in Los Angeles said.

“These weather factors will result in the potential for rapid fire spread in the warned area through at least Saturday evening,” the weather service said.

There are currently more than 12,000 firefighters battling 19 wildfires across the state of California, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

 

 

‘We started smelling smoke’

Meanwhile in Oregon, 140 hikers were being evacuated Saturday after a fire broke out southeast of Portland near the Eagle Creek Trail.

“We don’t believe any of the hikers are in any danger at this point in time. The groups are believed to be far enough away from fire (not) to be in any immediate danger,” said Joel Ives, spokesman with the Hood River County sheriff’s office.

The fire has burned between 50 and 100 acres since it broke out at about 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Cameron Wong was hiking at the trail with friends when they looked over a ledge and saw trees on fire.

“We started smelling smoke and felt heat, so we looked around, heard crackling, looked down the rail and right below there was a fire that jumped up on the trail just a few minutes later,” Wong told CNN affiliate KPTV. “There were kids there screaming. The fire had jumped on the trail and it was burning all around the rail … and then we ran out of there.”

The trail remained closed Saturday as firefighters worked to put down the blaze, officials say.

US Forest spokeswoman Rachel Pawlitz said school buses were still picking up hikers Saturday evening.

“Some of these people will be getting out soon, but others may have a very long night ahead of them,” Pawlitz said.