Wildfire north of Los Angeles scorches 15k acres as dry, windy conditions persist

Updated

Thousands of people across California remained under evacuation advisories Monday as authorities battled wildfires that erupted over the weekend and torched thousands of acres while weather officials warned of more strong winds and dry conditions.

The so-called Post Fire broke out Saturday afternoon along Interstate 5 in Gorman, a community about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Fueled by powerful wind gusts, the blaze had burned 15,610 acres of dry, mountainous land by Monday afternoon. Eight percent of the fire has been contained, CalFire said.

More than 1,200 people fled from Hungry Valley Park, a popular destination for off-roaders and bikers known for its scenic motorcycle trails. To the south, authorities closed Pyramid Lake, a reservoir popular for weekend boating about 25 miles northwest of the city of Santa Clarita. A several-mile stretch south of Pyramid Lake was placed under an evacuation warning.

A US Forest Service firefighter sets a controlled burn as the Post Fire burns through Castaic, California, June 16, 2024. The fire has grown to 12,265 acres, and continues to move southeast of Pyramid Lake, according to the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service at Angeles National Forest.
A US Forest Service firefighter sets a controlled burn as the Post Fire burns through Castaic, California, June 16, 2024. The fire has grown to 12,265 acres, and continues to move southeast of Pyramid Lake, according to the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service at Angeles National Forest.

Firefighters battled the blaze as it approached Lake Pyramid overnight but were hampered by limited visibility as they tried to establish a perimeter on the fire's east side, CalFire said. One commercial structure has been destroyed by the flames. The cause of the fire was unknown.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the I-5 corridor in northwest Los Angeles County, warning of high temperatures, low humidity and wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph through Monday afternoon. Tuesday also could see strong northerly winds.

"These conditions will be favorable for the rapid growth and spread of wildfires, including the ongoing Post Fire complex," the weather service said.

Mika Olesen, 20, who lives in Castaic, a suburban outpost northwest of Santa Clarita, said smoke and embers have been blown into town since Saturday evening.

"It's hazy over the the mountains," said Olesen, who has never before had to evacuate because of a wildfire and hoped the blaze would be extinguished before it reaches more populated areas, like Castaic.

Blaze near Lake Sonoma prompts evacuation orders

In Northern California, firefighters battled another fire that has engulfed more than 1,100 acres across Sonoma County.

The fire began on Sunday just east of Lake Sonoma, about 25 miles northwest of Santa Rosa, at approximately 12:30 p.m. Within hours, authorities ordered hundreds of residents to leave their homes and businesses – including several wineries – between the lake and the small city of Healdsburg. Thousands of others were placed under evacuation warnings.

At least one firefighter has been injured in the blaze, which has been dubbed the Point Fire, according to CalFire. About 400 first responders have been sent to the scene, and authorities used helicopters, bulldozers, water tenders and 50 fire engines to battle the blaze.

Air support drops water as the Post Fire burns through Castaic, California, June 16, 2024. The fire has grown to 12,265 acres, and continues to move southeast of Pyramid Lake, according to the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service at Angeles National Forest.
Air support drops water as the Post Fire burns through Castaic, California, June 16, 2024. The fire has grown to 12,265 acres, and continues to move southeast of Pyramid Lake, according to the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service at Angeles National Forest.

Multiple structures were damaged and destroyed, officials said without providing exact figures. Through the night, firefighters used three helicopters in their latest attempt to quell the flames amid strong winds and low humidity, CalFire said. As of Monday afternoon, the blaze was 20% contained. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Nearby areas, including North Bay and Contra Costa counties, issued Spare the Air advisories, warning that the air may be unhealthy for sensitive groups. Authorities temporarily banned wood burning and urged residents to avoid smoke exposure.

"Protect your health, stay indoors," the advisory says.

While Sonoma County is not under a red flag alert, a vast swath of the Sacramento Valley faces strong winds and dry conditions that will persist into Tuesday, the weather service said, urging residents to gather plans in case a fire breaks out in their area. The most active time for wildfires in California is generally between June and November.

"The threat of catastrophic wildfires isn't going to diminish until we actually start getting wetting rain and cooler conditions in the late fall, early winter," said Issac Sanchez, a spokesperson for CalFire.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Los Angeles wildfire grows, triggers warnings and evacuation orders

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