A top fire official has cautioned that the rapid growth of a wildfire in Los Angeles County, which has burned over 5,200 acres so far, should serve as a “wake-up call” to locals.
The Route Fire broke out at midday on Wednesday near Castaic Lake and swiftly spread, forcing the closure of a stretch of eastbound and westbound Interstate 5 due to safety concerns.
Angeles National Forest Chief Robert Garcia warned that “the fire behavior and what you saw yesterday should be a wake-up call to us all about the potential that we’re in and entering into over the next few days in terms of the fire conditions, very rapid fire growth, and very, very explosive fire behavior.”
According to California’s wildfire tracking website, the fire was 27% contained as of Thursday night. The state’s transportation department reports that both directions of I-5 were reopened Thursday afternoon, however some lanes are still closed.
Many people were told to leave their homes on Wednesday, but those orders were all rescinded by Thursday night.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency after a fire broke out during a heat wave. Officials have requested that people reduce their electricity consumption during peak hours to ease the load on the electrical infrastructure.
According to Alexis Clouser of the National Weather Service in San Francisco, “this will be the longest and most intense heat streak so far this calendar year.”
More heat-related medical emergencies are being prepared for.
High afternoon temperatures necessitated “boxing the fire in, fortifying our fire lines, and then anticipating some fire development,” LA County Fire Deputy Chief Thomas Ewald explained at a press conference on Thursday.
As officials sought to control the fire and ensure the safety of those fighting it, they gave special consideration to the oppressive heat.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Fire Department reported seven firemen had sustained heat-related injuries. Many were sent to the hospital but have since been released, Ewald said, adding that teams are being ready for further heat-related medical problems in the coming days.
On Thursday, the meteorological service said that certain parts of California had temperatures in the triple digits as a result of the recent heat wave.
There has been no word on what started the fire because investigators are still looking into it.
According to the fire brigade, the blaze damaged two buildings and endangered another five hundred and fifty.
The fire service reports that around 500 firefighters, 58 fire trucks, 8 helicopters, and 2 planes have been sent to the scene to put out the blaze.
Ewald said that officials are having to divide their attention because of fires raging in other parts of the state.
“There’s a big fire burning on the border down in San Diego County, so those (fixed-wing) planes are being taken off of these flames,” he explained. “Priorities change throughout the day due to the loss of homes in the neighborhood… We dispatched additional fixed-wing aircraft, but some of them have been redirected to fight the blaze.”
In context, it appears that Ewald was referring to the Border 32 fire that has burned 4,438 acres in the area between Tecate, Mexico, and the United States. According to the state’s wildfire tracking website, only 14% of the blaze has been contained.