Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019

Wildfire may have started from an electric tower near California home

LA wildfires continue to grow: Blazes that have killed three and forced more than 100,000 to evacuate rage across Southern California as it’s revealed an electrical tower may be to blame – while PG&E restore power for two million in the north

  • The Saddleridge Fire broke out after 9pm on Thursday in Sylmar, California along the 210 Freeway 
  • It is believed to have started at the base of Southern California Edison transmission tower that is located behind a home in Sylmar 
  • The Saddleridge Fire has burned over 7,500 acres and destroyed 31 structures, causing 100,000 to have to flee their homes
  • As of Saturday morning, the blaze has been 13 per cent contained.
  • Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for at least 25,000 homes in the Granada Hills, Porter Ranch and Oakridge Estates neighborhoods of Los Angeles
  • As of 8am Friday, 4,700 acres of land were scorched with zero containment, according to fire department 
  • Meanwhile nearby Sandalwood Fire burned after a garbage truck threw burning trash on the side of the road
  • Two people have died so far: a man in his late 50s who went into cardiac arrest and Lois Arvickson, 89, after the Sandalwood Fire swept through her mobile home park 
  • A firefighter suffered a ‘minor’ eye injury but has been taken to the hospital for treatment 
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state has secured federal grant from FEMA to ensure available resources to fight the Saddleridge Fire 

The lights were back on Friday for most of the nearly 2 million Northern California residents who lost electricity when the state’s largest utility switched it off this week in an effort to prevent wildfires.

The threat of widespread outages loomed in Southern California after the winds moved to the Los Angeles area, where a wildfire fueled by strong Santa Ana winds prompted officials to order the evacuation of 100,000 people from their homes in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.

In the Saddleridge Fire, one man went into cardiac arrest and died at the scene. Two other casualties have been reported as a result of the blaze.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. restored power in Northern California after workers inspected power lines to make sure it was safe. The winds had increased the possibility of transmission lines toppling to the ground or being hit by tree branches and starting wildfires.

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Pacific Gas & Electric Co. restored power for two million residents in Northern California after workers inspected power lines. They did so as the Saddleridge Fire continued making its way south. Porter Ranch, California, pictured 

The Saddleridge Fire broke out after 9pm on Thursday in Sylmar, California along the 210 Freeway. It is believed to have started at the base of Southern California Edison transmission tower that is located behind a home in Sylmar

The utility said it found 30 instances of weather-related damage to its equipment during the shutdown.

By Friday evening, PG&E said it had restored power to 97% of the 738,000 homes and businesses affected by the deliberate blackout that began Wednesday. About 21,000 customers remained without power.

Experts have said there are between two and three people for every electrical customer.

More than 6,000 ground workers and 44 helicopters were making safety inspections, which could only take place in daylight and were expected to resume at daybreak Saturday, PG&E said.

The Saddleridge Fire has burned over 7,500 acres and destroyed 31 structures. As of Saturday morning, the blaze has been 13 per cent contained, ABC 7 reports. 

As of Saturday morning, the blaze has been 13 per cent contained. The Friday blaze in Sylmar

Santa Ana winds carrying the fire prompted officials to order the evacuation of 100,000 people from their homes in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.

The fire is now believed to have started from a Southern California Edison transmission tower that is located behind a home in Sylmar, California. 

According to Robert Delgado, he and his wife first noticed the fire starting around 9.30pm on Thursday night at the base of an electrical transmission-line tower from behind his home. 

The fire quickly grew and forced the family to retreat from their home. 

‘We immediately ran downstairs, went to the backyard, pulled out the hoses,’ Delgado said. ‘I was dialing 911. The fire just came down so quickly.’  

Firemen came to fight the blaze but were forced to retreat after it continued growing too powerful. 

The Saddleridge Fire has burned over 7,500 acres and destroyed 31 structures

A private collection of 30 classic cars burned in Granada Hills, San Fernando Valley

A police chief and Granada Hills resident wait for firefighters to come fight the blaze at the man’s home

He added: ‘While I was hosing everything down there were flames and embers flying over those bushes at the back of our house and over our house. I was overwhelmed at the sight. Just seeing flames and embers flying over our house.’ 

Delgado said it was a ‘miracle’ that his home did not burn down. 

‘We left in tears thinking our house was going to burn down,’ he stated. ‘By a miracle the house is still here. Somehow those flames didn’t touch our house.’ 

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s office said Friday that an autopsy determined that the death of 67-year-old Robert Mardis minutes after the blackout was due to severe coronary disease, not the loss of electricity. The office said the investigation has closed. 

Marie Aldea of Pollock Pines had previously said Mardis, her 67-year-old father, was asleep when the electricity went out around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and likely couldn’t wake up in time to get his back up machine, which ran on battery.

A tanker drops retardant on the Saddleridge Fire burning in Newhall, California, on Friday

While most of this home in Porter Ranch was destroyed in the fire, this family was able to salvage a grandfather clock

‘We were all asleep, we heard my mom scream. She was crying,’ she told KTXL-TV in Sacramento . ‘My dad went down in her arms, he was going for this oxygen machine.’

Aldea said her father’s health was poor, but she doesn’t understand why the utility turned off the power.

‘No winds at all. And because of that, my father is gone,’ she said.

Some people in the largely rural Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties and in Northern California’s wine country counties were in their third day without electricity.

Butte County is where a fire started by PG&E equipment last year decimated the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. In Napa and Sonoma counties north of San Francisco, the outages began on the two-year anniversary of deadly wildfires that killed 44 and destroyed thousands of homes.

A firefighter rests as crews continue to battle the Saddleridge Fire in Porter Ranch

A man comforts his neighbor after the Granda Hills resident’s home burned to the ground as a result of the fire

PG&E faced hostility and second-guessing over the shut-offs, which prompted runs on supplies like coolers and generators and forced institutions to shut down.

Ryan Fisher, a partner in consumer goods and retail practice at global consultancy A.T. Kearney estimated $100 million in $200 million in fresh food was likely lost because of the outages along with $30 million a day in consumer spending.

PG&E cast the blackouts as a matter of public safety to prevent the kind of blazes that have killed scores of people over the past couple of years, destroyed thousands of homes, and ran up tens of billions of dollars in claims that drove the company into bankruptcy.

The utility suggested it was already seeing the wisdom of its decision borne out as gusts topping 77 mph (122 kph) raked some hilltops where wildfire risk was extremely high.

Orange County firefighters work knock down a house fire on Singing Hills Drive as the Saddleridge Fire burns in Porter Ranch

Terrifying footage shows crews battling a California wildfire fueled by winds as homes burned and thousands of people were forced to evacuate. Pictured: Firefighters work to extinguish the Saddleridge Fire in Porter Ranch on Friday

Utility CEO Bill Johnson promised if future wind events require similar shut-offs, the utility will ‘do better’ at communicating with customers. It’s unacceptable that its website crashed, maps were inconsistent and call centers were overloaded, Johnson said.

‘We were not adequately prepared,’ he said. 

Officials say the Saddleridge Fire fire has quickly grown, scorching more than 7,542 acres by 1pm on Friday with 13 percent containment. 

According to Los Angeles officials, the fire was spreading an acre every two and a half seconds at during its peak. 

Saddleridge Fire Smoke Advisory

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health has declared unhealthy air quality in the following places:

  • Northwest Los Angeles County
  • West San Fernando Valley
  • East San Fernando Valley
  • Santa Clarita Valley 
  • San Gabriel Mountains
  • West San Gabriel Valley 

As of Friday afternoon, the City of Santa Clarita reported the fire has grown to 7,542 acres and is only 13 percent contained.   

The cause of the fire is still unknown. 

Helicopters made repeated water drops as 1,000 firefighters on the ground attacked flames in and around homes, 31 of which have been damaged so far.

13 of those structures have a 100 percent total loss, three have a 50 percent loss, four have a 25 percent loss and eleven have a 10 percent loss. 

40 schools were closed because of poor air quality in the area, according to CNN. 

In a news release from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the declared portions of six California areas have poor air quality.

The news release said: ‘It is difficult to tell where smoke, ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of these particles in the air, so we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy.’

They warn residents to pay attention to their immediate environment if they see smoke, soot or ash.  

Authorities have ordered mandatory evacuations in the Granada Hills, Porter Ranch and Oakridge Estates neighborhoods affecting about 100,000 people on the northern edge of the city in the San Fernando Valley area.

On Friday evening, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California had secured a Fire Management Assistance grant from FEMA to help guarantee available resources to fight the Saddleridge fire burning Los Angeles and Ventura counties. 

The fire, known as the Saddleridge Fire, broke out after 9pm on Thursday in Sylmar, north of Los Angeles. Pictured: A helicopter drops water to help fight flames as the Saddleridge Fire in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles on Friday

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services shared a map outlining the most recent updates to the evacuation map (pictured) in the county of Los Angeles

Newsom said: ‘We are closely monitoring the fires burning across the state and are assisting state and local officials helping the tens of thousands of Californians affected by these fires.’

‘California thanks the White House for their timely response to our request, which will ensure the communities grappling with this fire have the vital resources and support they need.’

The grant will help local, state and tribal agencies combating the fire and reimburse 75 percent of eligible fire suppression costs. 

The Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, signed an emergency declaration.

‘I’ve signed an emergency declaration for the [Saddleridge Fire] directing the [City of Los Angeles] agencies to take all necessary steps to protect lives and property threatened by this fire, and calling on our County and State partners to support us with the resources and collaboration we need.’ 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (pictured) signed an emergency declaration Friday evening that will allow Los Angeles agencies to utilize all necessary precautions to battle the Saddleridge Fire

Mayor Garcetti (middle) and other officials held a press conference on Friday evening to provide residents with vital updates regarding the fires 

Mayor Garcetti, along with numerous city and state officials, held a press conference Friday evening to provide updates on the fires. 

 LAFD Chief Deputy David R. Richardson Jr., said there is ‘still quite a bit of work to do’ and that there is a continual effort to get a line around the fire.

Los Angeles Fire Updates

Mayor Eric Garcetti  and city officials held a press conference with the following updates: 

  • Fire officials efforts to contain the fire could continue for the few days to a week
  • Resources to combat the fire are being used around the city, but a portion is being saved for the most critical areas
  • Residents south of the 118 freeway and west of De Soto Avenue will be allowed back into their homes
  • The remaining closed areas will be continue that way for tonight and into tomorrow at minimum
  • Officials will accompany some residents to closed areas to retrieve necessary items, depending on the level of danger

This process is estimated to take a few days to a week.  

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said: ‘We have sufficient resources around the entire city, however we have embarked on a tactical alert in order to control and save those resources for our most critical instances.’ 

‘The consequences is that citizens and community members in the city may see a degradation on low level calls for service.’

‘There a balancing act for all the competing needs for public safety here in Los Angeles.’

Moore revealed that city officials are opening all closed areas south of the 118 Freeway and west of De Soto Avenue.

Residents in those areas are now allowed back into their homes. 

The remaining closed areas are expected to stay that way, at a minimum, through tonight and into tomorrow. 

Because of this, the city of Los Angeles designating three centers staffed by police officers and volunteers from the Mayor’s emergency response team where officials will accompany residents back to their homes to retrieve forgotten items. 

The retrieval process will last five minutes and interested residents must present valid IDs. 

Important items like essential medicines, new clothing, other items and checking up on left behind pets can all be done during this time. 

Not all Los Angeles residents will be given access to their homes depending on the severity of fire in their area. 

Some parts of the city are still suffering from hot spots and too difficult for firefighters to resolve yet. 

Lastly, Moore stated that looting of any kind will not be tolerated.  

Accordinto LAPD Chief Moore, and tweeted by Mayor Garcetti (pictured), revealed that some residents affected by the fires will be allowed to briefly return to their homes to retrieve essential items 

The first confirmed fatality was a man his late 50s went into cardiac arrest as a result of the blaze on Thursday night. Paramedics performed CPR and transported the man to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

On Friday, it was confirmed that 89-year-old Arvickson perished while she was trying to escape the Sandalwood Fire that swept through her mobile home park on Thursday night.

Arvickson’s son, Don Turner, said she went missing on Thursday night after the wind-driven wildfire swept through a Southern California mobile home park, destroying dozens of residences.   

The blaze began by the 210 Freeway near Yarnell Street and jumped the highway. Pictured: Flames from the Saddleridge fire make a run up a hillside in Porter Ranch on Friday morning

Fire officials said the Saddleridge Fire consumed more than 4,700 acres by 8am on Friday with zero containment. Pictured: A singed rabbit jumps over a fire as the Saddleridge Fire progresses in Porter Ranch on Friday morning

Helicopters made repeated water drops as 1,000 firefighters on the ground attacked flames in and around homes. Pictured: Water fighter planes dumped gallons on the still-burning Saddleridge Fire on Friday morning

This map shows where the various fires in California are blazing, including the most recent Saddleridge Fire 

This map shows where the fires in Los Angeles are burning including the evacuation zones. Mandatory evacuation zones are colored in red

irefighters work to extinguish the Saddleridge Fire on a parking lot next to two burnt cars in Porter Ranch on Friday

Turner said Arvickson called from her cellphone to say she was evacuating shortly after the blaze was reported in the Calimesa area.

‘She said she’s getting her purse and she’s getting out, and the line went dead,’ he said.

Arvickson’s neighbors saw in her garage as flames approached, according to Turner. A short time later the neighbors saw the garage on fire, but they don’t know if she’d managed to escape, he said.  

 Victim Lois Arvickson, 89 (pictured), of Calimesa, had been missing since Thursday night after the Sandalwood Fire swept through the mobile home park where she lived

Leanne Sutter, a reporter for ABC 7 said in a Facebook post on Friday hat her family confirmed the news of her death.     

According to Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas, the Saddleridge Fire is burning at a rate of 800 acres per hour.

 As you can imagine the embers from the wind have been traveling a significant distance which causes another fire to start,’ he said. 

Dozens of schools and universities were closed as administrators urged to students to stay safe.   

On Thursday night, drivers shared terrifying footage of the flames raging on either side of the freeway before it was shut down.

Emergency services are seen at intervals along the highway in the dramatic footage, as the fire burns orange into the night’s sky.  

In one of the videos the driving conditions become so bad due to the smoke that cars begin to pull over at the side of the road.  

In separate videos, part of the footage shows huge flames rising up into the sky from a building as helicopters circle above the area. 

Land further behind in the background is also on fire, with large areas of grass burning.  

Much of northern California, from San Francisco to the Oregon border, remains under a state ‘red flag’ fire alert.

A house on Hampton Court smolders as firefighters battle the Saddleridge fire on Friday in Porter Ranch

Authorities have ordered mandatory evacuations in the Granada Hills, Porter Ranch and Oakridge Estates neighborhoods on Thursday night and Friday morning

As the sun rose on Friday morning, the Saddleridge fire continued to burn right by several homes and on the hills in Sylmar

A firefighter walks through the smoke after battling the Saddleridge Fire all night in Porter Ranch on Friday

More than 4,000 acres burned overnight and more than 12,000 homes were under mandatory evacuation. Pictured: Smoke over Sylmar on Friday morning

Smoke and fires continued to blaze as daylight broke on Friday morning near Sylmar

A plane dropped a red retardant, a substance used to slow or stop the spread of fire or reduce its intensity, over Sylmar, where the Saddleridge Fire began, on Friday morning

A firefighter keeps an eye on the wildfire burning behind Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar on Friday 

Firefighter walk alongside the blaze burning behind Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar on Friday

A firefighter works to extinguish the Saddleridge Fire in Porter Ranch early Friday morning with a bucket of water

Meanwhile, the nearby Sandlewood fire continued to rage on. 

According to Riverside County officials, the fire started when trash being hauled caught fire and the driver dumped the load alongside the road to prevent the truck from being set ablaze.

Dry grass quickly ignited and winds gusting to 50mph blew the fire into the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, about 75 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Fire officials were investigating what caused the trash in the truck to catch fire in Calimesa. 

No injuries have been reported aside from a firefighter who suffered a ‘minor’ eye injury and was transported to a hospital for treatment. 

‘We need people to leave now while they can,’ fire officials said during a press conference Friday morning, according to FOX 11. ‘If you stay in [mandatory evacuation] areas we cannot guarantee that we will save you.’    

PORTER RANCH GAS LEAK

 The fires blanketing the area come just four years after many in the same community were displaced and sickened by a leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility.

The leak was discovered in October of 2015 and officials were not able to plug it up until February 2016. 

At first, residents were not even informed of the leak, and had to wait days before they were alerted to the potentially fatal situation by Southern California Gas Co, the operator of the 115 wells in the area.

A single well, which was 1,850 feet deep, started to leak gas, which blanketed the area with a rotten egg odor from the mercaptan – which acted as a safety measure because of its strong smell, which would alert people to a leak.  

Crews then got to work trying to seal a 2-7/8 pipe enclosed in a seven-inch well casing that was 500-feet below the surface.

Flight paths were revised so that aircraft did not fly directly over the area, two schools were eventually shut down.

Greg Hisel, assistant fire captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said at the time there was no real risk of an explosion – but there were concerns that the leak could cause a fire. 

He said welding equipment, radios and even a cell phone could cause a fire.

The leak increased California’s methane-gas emissions by an estimated 25 percent in that time as 110,000 pounds of methane were released into the atmosphere hour.

It is still unclear what the long-term health problems this might cause for residents, who at the time experienced nose bleeds and headaches.

Only 10 percent of 800 acres of the Sandalwood Fire contained as of Friday morning, the Riverside County Fire Department said. 

Hot, dry winds sweeping into Southern California raised concerns that the region’s largest utility could widen power shutoffs on Friday to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires.

Southern California Edison turned off electricity to about 20,000 people in Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino and Kern counties, but warned that thousands more could lose service as Santa Ana winds gained strength.

Winds gusted dangerously as forecast before calming in Northern California, where Pacific Gas & Electric faced hostility and second-guessing over its widespread shutoffs.     

Governor Gavin Newsom criticized PG&E and ordinary customers complained about the inconveniences caused by the unprecedented blackouts that began midweek. 

Terrifying aerial footage showed crews battling a California wildfire fueled by winds as home burned and 100,000 people were forced to evacuate in Sylmar on Thursday night and Friday morning

Multiple freeways, including Interstate 5, Interstate 210, and Interstate 405 northbound were shut down, according to the California Highway Patrol. Pictured: A firefighter waits for water as the Saddleridge fire flares up near homes in Sylmar on Thursday

A firefighter battles the Saddleridge fire after it began in Sylmar, California, after 9pm on Thursday

Water is dropped by helicopter on a large brush fire in Sylmar, California, on Friday morning

Firefighters work on a hose nozzle as the Saddleridge fire burns nears homes in Sylmar on Thursday

A firefighter sprays water on a fully engulfed house on Jolette Way in Granada Hills North early Friday morning

Shocking videos show residents driving along as the massive wildfire spreads on both sides of them in Saddleridge, Sylmar near Los Angeles on Thursday night

In one of the videos the driving conditions become so bad due to the smoke that cars begin to pull over on the side of the road (pictured) on Thursday night

In separate videos, part of the footage shows huge flames rising up into the sky from a building (pictured) as helicopters circle above the area on Thursday night

PG&E, though, suggested it was already seeing the wisdom of its decision borne out as gusts topping 77 mph raked the San Francisco Bay Area amid a bout of dry, windy weather. 

‘We have found multiple cases of damage or hazards’ caused by heavy winds, including fallen branches that came in contact with overhead lines,’ said Sumeet Singh, a vice president for the utility company. ‘If they were energized, they could’ve ignited.’ 

Because of the dangerous weather in the forecast, PG&E cut power Wednesday to an estimated two million people in an area.  

Amid the chaos, a man says his 89-year-old mother has been missing since Thursday night after the wind-driven wildfire swept through a Southern California mobile home park, destroying dozens of residences.

Lois Arvickson called her son, Don Turner, from her cellphone to say she was evacuating shortly after the blaze was reported in the Calimesa area.

‘She said she’s getting her purse and she’s getting out, and the line went dead,’ he said.

Arvickson’s neighbors saw in her garage as flames approached, according to Turner. A short time later the neighbors saw the garage on fire, but they don’t know if she’d managed to escape, he said.

Turner said he’s been checking hospitals. 

Riverside County fire officials said they’re still trying to determine if anybody is unaccounted for after 74 structures were decimated.

Previously authorities said they responded to ‘numerous’ medical emergencies at the park. Several residents were transported to hospitals but there were no details on their conditions, county fire Capt Fernando Herrera said.  

The fire broke out along the 210 Freeway near Yarnell Street and jumped the highway. Pictured: Embers from the Saddleridge fire blow by firefighters in Sylmar on Thursday

Jerry Rowe uses a garden hose to save his home on Beaufait Avenue from the Saddleridge fire in Granada Hills on Friday

Photos capture the Saddleridge fire advancing into Granada Hills early Friday morning

A man stomps on flames of the Saddleridge Fire in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles early Friday morning 

A helicopter flies past as a man throws dirt on flames of the Saddleridge Fire in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles on Friday morning

Flames shoot out from the front of a house on Jolette Way in Granada Hills North early Friday morning 

Firefighters recoil from smoke and heat from a fully engulfed house on Jolette Way in Granada Hills North early Friday morning

Linda Klosek, 70, and her daughter Stacey Holloway, 43, had gone grocery shopping and were on their way back home to Villa Calimesa when they saw their neighbors evacuating.

‘You couldn’t even see anything, the smoke was so thick,’ Linda said.

From the evacuation center they watched on TV as flames destroyed their home.

‘When you’re watching it, it’s like someone else’s home,’ Stacey said. They returned $60 worth of groceries to the store because now ‘there’s no place to put it.’

The 2018 wildfire season last year was the deadliest and most destructive ever recorded in California, with about 100 residents and firefighters killed.

More than 8,500 fires erupted, scorching more than 1.8 million acres and causing billions of dollars of damage. 

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