A wind-driven wildfire broke out in Agua Dulce Thursday afternoon, forcing evacuations and destroying at least half a dozen homes as it spread rapidly into the Canyon Country area.
Los Angeles County firefighters first reported the incident around 1:45 p.m. on the 31600 block of Tick Canyon Road. Dubbed the Tick Fire, it moved quickly downhill toward residential communities in Santa Clarita.
Within 20 minutes, the flames had spread to 200 acres, and by 8 p.m. it covered an estimated 3,950 acres, according to the County Fire Department. Although officials had briefly listed the fire at 5,000 acres around 6:30 p.m., it was downgraded back to 3,000.
It was 0% contained and forced the evacuation of 50,000 people, said Marvin Lim, a Fire Department spokesperson.
Several structures have been lost but it’s unclear how many, firefighters said. Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said at least six homes had been lost.
Aerial video showed the blaze was closing in on residences in a remote area before at least one in the area went up in flames just before 2:20 p.m.
By 2:40 p.m., the flames were moving toward homes in the area of Sunrose Place, within Santa Clarita city limits, the video from Sky5 showed. Aircraft could be seen conducting water drops in the area.
Later, Sky5 was overhead the area of Baker Canyon Road off Sierra Highway, where at least six homes were burning by 6 p.m.
However, around the same time, fire officials said the flames’ forward progress was slowing.
Crews could be seen working to prevent the fire from advancing onto residential properties.
A Sikorsky firefighting helicopter was struck by a bird during Thursday afternoon’s firefight, Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said. No personnel on board were hurt, though the helicopter and it’s windshield sustained “significant” damage.
“Thankfully, they were able to land safely back at our heliport,” he said. “The windshield will be repaired, and that particular copter will fly tomorrow to assist with this incident.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced late Thursday that the state has secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“This assistance provides vital support for our response to the fast-moving Tick Fire, which has already threatened hundreds of homes and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents,” Newsom said in a prepared statement. “I urge all impacted residents to stay safe and up to date on evacuation information.”
Evacuations ordered, schools closed
• South of Vasquez Canyon Road
• North and east of Plum Canyon Road
• North and east of Whites Canyon Road
• North and east of Soledad Canyon Road
• West of Agua Dulce
• South and north of the 14 Freeway
• East of Sand Canyon Road
• North of Placerita Canyon
• West of Robinson Ranch Golf Course
• West of Sequoia Road
• Davenport Road east of Sierra Highway, including all streets off Davenport Road
The 14 Freeway northbound and southbound offramps at Soledad Canyon Road were be closed indefinitely, according to the CHP.
Osby urged those living near the fire to be on the alert and “stay vigilant,” even if they’re not currently under evacuation orders.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said 130 deputies were patrolling the evacuated neighborhoods to help keep them secure.
Sheriff’s officials said they were considering a “large evacuation footprint” due to sustaining wind and fire activity.
Shelters were set up at a College of the Canyons gym in Santa Clarita at 17200 Sierra Highway, and the Newhall Community Center at 22421 Market St.
Large animals and livestock could be taken to Pierce College in Woodland Hills, 6201 Winnetka Ave.
Small animals could be taken to the Castaic Animal Care Center at 31044 North Charlie Canyon Road.
Santa Clarita officials asked people not to evacuate to Central Park on Bouquet Canyon Road, which was being used as a basecamp for fire crews.
Classes were canceled for Friday at all schools in the following districts:
- William S. Hart Union High School District
- Saugus Union School District
- Castaic Union School District
- Los Angeles Unified School Districts schools within the San Fernando Valley
- Fillmore Unified School District
- Mupu School District
By 3:20 p.m., a second blaze dubbed the Tick Branch 10, was burning just outside backyards in Castaic after breaking out along the 5 Freeway. Flames could be seen singing the roofs of multiple homes.
In the Val Verde area, another fire had damaged at least four mobile homes.
The city of Santa Clarita said it would be posting public safety updates on its emergency website.
A fourth L.A. County fire, dubbed the Sepulveda Fire, was burning in the Sepulveda Basin.
All three fires were 0% contained as of Thursday evening. But, Osby said officials were confident they could contain the Castaic and Val Verde fires Thursday night.
Critical fire weather conditions
The fast-moving fire came amid widespread red flag warnings with strong Santa Ana winds fanning Southern California.
Coupled with high temperatures and low humidity, fire danger in northern L.A. County was considered extreme — and more extreme than during the Saddleridge Fire that destroyed homes earlier this month in the northern San Fernando Valley.
Gusts of 45-55 mph were expected to continue in the Tick Fire area through Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.
Osby said winds were expected to get stronger Thursday night, and extreme fire behavior and rapid spread would continue through Friday.
“Our weather projections are that the winds will sustain where they are tonight and even get worse, so we’re going to have our firefighters out all night trying to do what they can to protect structures and place emphasis on containing this fire,” he said.
Agua Dulce was among several areas where Southern California Edison had shut off power as of 12:45 p.m. in an attempt to prevent downed power lines from sparking fires.
Smoke from Thursdays fires was spreading as far as Ventura County. NWS meteorologist Keily Delerme told the Los Angeles Times that hot temperatures were contributing to the massive amount of smoke.
“That’s why the plume looks so impressive, because it’s very warm near the fire,” Delerme said.
Check back for updates on this developing story.