The La Tuna fire has destroyed three homes in and around Tujunga. The blaze was 15% contained Sunday.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County as firefighters continue to battle a 5,900-acre brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains north of downtown Los Angeles that has destroyed three homes and shut down a stretch of the 210 Freeway.
The governor’s declaration came at the urging of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said it would ensure that state and federal assistance was provided as quickly as possible. Garcetti described the fire as the biggest in the history of the city in terms of sheer acreage.
Firefighters got some relief Sunday from a heat wave that has gripped much of the state for days. Temperatures were slightly cooler, in the mid-90s, and there were even brief showers in some burn areas as monsoonal moisture from Tropical Storm Lidia moved into the region. Winds were also calmer, but officials warned that could change quickly.
“The biggest challenge and risk is the wind,” said Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas.
The fire was 15% contained Sunday, he said. The number of firefighters battling the flames has doubled since Saturday morning, with more than 1,000 firefighters now on the scene. The chief said full containment of the fire is expected within three to four days.
Garcetti said that Caltrans was assessing the possibility of reopening the 210 Freeway, which is shut down between the 2 Freeway and Wheatland Avenue, Sunday night or early Monday. But he said the fire is “still very much alive” and expressed concern about changes in the weather.
“You can visually see we have turned a corner,” he said, “but this is not over.”
More than 700 area residents were evacuated in the area over the weekend. But Burbank officials allowed residents to return home late Sunday afternoon, while Glendale was planning to lift its evacuation orders at 6 p.m.
When Burbank resident Craig Bollesen stopped by to see his parents in Shadow Hills on Saturday morning, the flames seemed distant from their home. For hours, the fire appeared to be creeping slowly into the nearby valley as they packed up photographs and the quilts his mother had made, just in case.
Then Bollesen saw the flames rushing toward the house, faster than he thought he could run.
“It was exploding down the hill,” Bollesen said. “I said, ‘We need to move!’ ”
They loaded the family into their car, said a prayer and fled. Bollesen said he returned hours later to find the charred remains of his parents’ home on Green Verdugo Drive.
“We all know the danger,” Bollesen said, recounting how he and his parents had regularly worked to clear brush from around the house. Still, he said, “I don’t think it registers how quickly it changes from something that you could walk up and put out with a garden hose to a conflagration.”
By 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service was tracking a thunderstorm about 10 miles north of Burbank, and there was a brief shower in the Sunland area, officials said.
Photo Credit: Patch