Wildfires force Calif. governor to issue a state of emergency

Posted at 11:44 AM, Sep 04, 2017

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County Sunday, as the La Tuna Fire continues to rage in the Verdugo Mountains.

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the erratic blaze that is burning in areas of Burbank, Glendale and Sunland-Tujunga and has scorched about 7,000 acres.

The fire was 30 percent contained as of Sunday afternoon and firefighters are expecting to battle the stubborn blaze for days. However, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said it was "growing very slowly, which is a good sign."

As a result of Gov. Brown's emergency declaration, the blaze has been made the top public safety priority in the state. The statewide declaration at the urging of Mayor Garcetti, who issued a similar measure at the local level Saturday evening.

In his declaration Sunday, Brown said the conditions of the fire have caused "great peril" to residents of Los Angeles County and ordered more personnel and equipment to the area.

The city of Los Angeles went on tactical alert for a time Sunday afternoon to provide additional public safety resources, but the measure was scaled back to a modified tactical alert involving only the local police bureau by nightfall, LAPD Capt. Dave Storaker tweeted.

Four firefighters suffered minor injuries, including from heat exhaustion, a minor burn and a bee sting, Garcetti confirmed.

LAFD Firefighter David Ortiz told KTLA Sunday that the unpredictable winds and hot weather Saturday called for crews to be agile and move quickly as hot spots pop up.

He explained that Burbank and Sunland-Tujunga saw the most fire activity Saturday

Firefighters faced more favorable conditions Sunday, LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said during an afternoon news conference.

"We are optimistic about making big progress today and the rest of the week," he said. However, 100 percent containment could take another three or four days, Terrazas said.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms passed through the mountain areas of Los Angeles County Sunday, including over the La Tuna blaze, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Terrazas said firefighters experienced "pretty good downpour" for a few minutes, but the precipitation brought with it some erratic winds. "Dry lightning" could also create a problem, NWS reported.

With some embers still smoldering at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the winds — which exceeded 50 mph — could kick those up into flares, Garcetti noted. "With winds this strong, anything could happen," he said.

NWS reported "dry lightning" could also create a problem, and flash flooding near recent burn was also a possibility.

Two homes and one additional structure have burned in the fire. Two of the three structures burned on property that did not have proper brush clearance, Terrazas said. In addition, one other home has been damaged in the blaze.

All evacuations orders previously issued for residents of Burbank, Glendale and the Sunland-Tujunga area of L.A. were lifted by 6:45 p.m.

More than 700 homes had been evacuated over the weekend. However, only 10 people evacuated in the city of Los Angeles required the use of a shelter; another 1,400 residents found refuge in the homes of friends or good Samaritans, according to Garcetti.

The 210 Freeway was reopened Sunday evening at 6 p.m. after being closed since Friday.

Flames were visible on a hillside of Villa Cabrini Park in Burbank Sunday morning. Firefighters surrounded the area to try and control the fire.

By Sunday evening, the fired had charred parts of the Wildwood Canyon hiking and recreation area, Burbank police said.

Gary Mull was keeping an eye on the blaze Sunday morning and told KTLA firefighters had been in the area all night long.

"It’s grown significantly. It took a long time for it to come down to the base of the park here," Mull said. "It’s really scary for everybody, especially for people who live at the top of the hill here."

The blaze, which is now the largest in Los Angeles history, according to Garcetti, began about 1:30 p.m. Friday in a drainage along the north side of La Tuna Canyon Road, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The cause of the blaze has not been determined and arson investigators were on scene, Terrazas said.