By Emily Alvarenga & Caleb Lunetta
Signal Staff Writers
Firefighters battled a brush fire in Castaic Wednesday afternoon that prompted evacuation warnings for nearby homes and businesses, but had to restrict their ground attack due to the fire’s proximity to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad training facility.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for north and west of West Hills Drive, north of Iron Village Drive, north and west of Tesoro Del Valle and north of Copper Hill Drive. Rye Canyon Loop remained under voluntary evacuation status as of 6:45 p.m.
Additional evacuation warnings were issued for Bellows Court, Via Patina and Platinum Court areas, as the fire was reportedly moving to the east. Residents in the area should anticipate the possibility of evacuation, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials announced late Wednesday afternoon.
The brush fire was first reported on the 29300 block of The Old Road shortly before 1:30 p.m., Fire Department spokesman Henry Narvaez said.
The first firefighters to arrive found what appeared to be a 1-acre fire, creeping uphill in light to medium fuel, Narvaez added.
The fire had grown to 5 acres by 2:40 p.m. before jumping to 30 acres a half-hour later, which prompted a second-alarm assignment and additional resources to be dispatched, according to Fire Department Supervisor Franklin Lopez.
Within a matter of minutes, the blaze had reportedly increased to 50 acres, prompting a third-alarm assignment, according to fire officials.
By 6 p.m., the fire had grown to 460 acres and 0% containment, according to officials at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
Road closures were also announced for West Hills Drive from Iron Village Drive to northern Copperhill Drive.
Don and Deborah Sherman, a couple who reside on West Hills Drive, said they had previously lived in Stevenson Ranch and experienced a fire there. They said that experience kept them from being panicked Wednesday.
“We noticed that, even though this one does look scary, that when (the previous fire) looked scary, they threw a lot of firemen, resources, there were trucks everywhere,” said Don Sherman. “So, I’m hoping that there aren’t trucks everywhere which means … they’re somewhat guiding it in the right direction.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Kristen Stewart said firefighters were battling the fire in “pretty dry” conditions, with 8% humidity and gusting winds up to 16 mph from the north.
The fire, dubbed the North Fire, was initially burning toward a dozer line, which is a fire break that firefighters had put in the area to slow the fire down, Narvaez added.
While around 80 firefighters had been dispatched to the fire, because it was burning in and around an area where the LASD bomb squad trains and practices, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft did most of the early firefighting for safety reasons, according to Narvaez.
“That’s the issue we have,” said Narvaez, in reference to the fire being in and around an area with possible live ordnance. “We’ve been advised that they rather not have firefighters go in that vicinity if we didn’t need to.”
Narvaez described the circumstances as a “setback,” but that both ground and air units are adapting accordingly.
There had been no official word if any ordnance had gone off or injuries occurred by mid-afternoon, Narvaez added.
Both city of Santa Clarita and sheriff’s officials asked commuters to avoid the area to allow for emergency vehicles to proceed through.