California Wildfires: Post, Point Fires Burn Buildings, Thousands of Acres

A series of brush fires burned across Southern California on Sunday, destroying structures and forcing evacuations in some places, while engine crews braced for strong winds overnight.

The largest fire has blackened nearly 15,000 acres in the Gorman area and was only 2% contained Sunday night, officials said. In Sonoma County, the fire burned about 1,013 acres, tore down an unknown number of structures and prompted evacuation orders and warnings in the upper Dry Creek Valley, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire spokesman Jason Clay said an accurate count of how many people were told to evacuate was not available late Sunday. Fire is 15% contained.

“We’re just trying to see what the wind is going to do,” Clay added. “The teams are going to work hard tonight.”

Firefighters had better luck in the Lancaster area, where flames burned about 340 acres and damaged some structures, officials said. For a while, nearby houses were threatened.

A fast-moving brush fire damaged several buildings in the Lancaster area Sunday afternoon.

(KCAL News)

The fire broke out near 80th Street West and Avenue K, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. By evening, crews had the fire under control and no other structures were threatened, department spokesman Craig Little said.

“Forward progress stopped,” Little said. “The fire isn’t going anywhere.”

The number of damaged buildings was not immediately available.

On Saturday afternoon, Oscar Flores was off-roading with his 12-year-old son in Hungry Valley State Park, south of Gorman, when he saw smoke in the distance.

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The 33-year-old Oxnard resident wasn’t too worried, thinking it was a car fire on Interstate 5, but he was contacted by a park ranger who told him to leave the off-road recreation area immediately.

“It seemed like the last day of the world. People were quickly loading up and leaving, driving fast. The ranger told you 10 minutes. [to get] You can pack whatever you want,” he recalled on Sunday. “Some people got mad and they had to leave.”

Flores and his family and friends escaped safely, along with about 1,200 other campers and visitors who were evacuated from a recreation area west of the freeway after the wind-driven wildfire broke out south of Ralphs Ranch Road about 2 p.m.

Videos and photos posted on social media captured the exodus of motor homes trailing ATVs from campgrounds crowded with groups celebrating Father’s Day weekend in the 19,000-acre park. I-5 was closed for a short time Saturday at Quail Lake and Gorman Post Road, causing traffic congestion, with some accidents reportedly caused by drivers stopping to photograph the flames.

The fire quickly grew to 500 acres, and overnight strong, gusty winds at Tejon Pass fanned the Post Fire as it moved parallel to I-5, southeast to Pyramid Lake, and officials closed it in. According to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. By Sunday evening the fire had grown to 14,625 acres and was 2% contained as high winds, low humidity and steep terrain hampered firefighting efforts. The cause was under investigation.

The fire destroyed an auto repair shop, damaged another building and threatened other structures south and west of I-5, officials said. The Los Angeles County Fire Department responded quickly, conducting airstrikes with air tankers and water-dropping helicopters. The Ventura County Fire Department and the US Forest Service assisted in the effort. At one point Sunday, about 400 firefighters and 70 engines were on the scene, Cal Fire said.

Flames burn a hillside.  Firefighters stand at the foot of the hill.

Fire crews monitor a fire near Hungry Valley Road in Gorman on Sunday.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Temperatures in the mountains are forecast to reach 80 degrees above 90 degrees on Sunday. Winds of 50 mph and 15% to 20% humidity in the afternoon provided further challenges. “They’re going to have a tough time with the fire,” said Carlos Molina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

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Meanwhile, firefighters in the San Bernardino County community of Hesperia were battling another brush fire that broke out in the 18000 block of North Highway 173 just after 6 p.m. Saturday.

It is partial road closure and a Evacuation warning to the nearby Lake Arrowhead Estates community, according to Cal Fire. The brush fire moved east and was at 1,131 acres Sunday evening after minimal activity overnight. Crews were reinforcing lines around the fire, which was 20% contained, and mopping up hot spots.

“They’re making good progress building some containment lines,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Chloe Castillo told The Times.

An investigation was conducted into the cause of the fire.

The wildfires erupted as experts worked to gauge the severity of this year’s fire season. A wet winter has fostered a heavy fuel load of thick grasses, which are drying out as temperatures rise. Earlier this month, a wind-driven wildfire in San Joaquin County south of Tracy burned more than 14,000 acres.

LA County Fire Department crews were battling a post fire while responding to a quarry fire in Antelope Valley.

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