Three massive fires erupted on Thursday in Southern California, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, an “unknown” number of homes have burned down, however, no injuries have been reported yet.
According to The Weather Channel, the fire quickly worsened when flames from the Saddleridge Fire crossed over the 210 Freeway. It then crossed over the 5 Freeway, a major artery for Los Angeles’ traffic. Both highways were closed due to smoke. The fire is moving so rapidly that it’s hitting new neighborhoods before authorities can warn residents.
The #SaddleridgeFire which started in Sylmar has now jumped the 5 freeway per @LAFD. Additional mandatory evacuation orders for the area of Balboa to Tampa north of Sesnon. The 210 freeway between the 5 & 118 has been shutdown per @CHPsouthern. Take this fire seriously! pic.twitter.com/bQT7imoQ9O— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) October 11, 2019
That can’t be that fire,” Cece Merkerson, who lives in Porter Ranch, told The Los Angeles Times as she watched the fast-moving flames approach. “That can’t be it.” She was evacuated a few minutes later.
“I started knocking on all my neighbors’ doors because I knew they were sleeping,” she told The Times. “I’m banging and banging and I woke up about eight of them — and they all looked at me like I was crazy.”
On Friday morning, the fire department told reporters the blaze has grown to 2,000 acres. There are currently some 400 firefighters fighting to contain it.
The mandatory evacuation zone for the #SaddleRidgeFire is now from Balboa Blvd to the Ventura County line north of Sesnon Blvd. From Sesnon to the 118 freeway, it’s an evac warning zone. Please be prepared. Spread the word to your neighbors, friends & loved ones in those areas. pic.twitter.com/wIlNVdhUaK— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) October 11, 2019
Meanwhile, further north in the San Francisco area, Pacific Gas & Electric cut off power to hundreds of thousands of people in an effort to reduce the risk of fires due to downed power lines. Though customers, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, criticized the move, the utility company said it already found cases where the power lines could have sparked fires.
"We have found multiple cases of damage or hazards," Sumeet Singh, a vice president for the utility, told CBS. He noted, the company found fallen branches that came in contact with overhead lines. "If they were energized, they could've ignited.”
Residents in both areas are urged to stay tuned to local stations and adhere to any warnings officials may give. Travelers are also urged to have patience when traveling to or from the area.