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UPDATE: Powerhouse Fire now at 5,561 acres, more evacuations ordered

As many as 2,000 people forced to evacuate

Posted: May 31, 2013 8:40 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2013 7:24 p.m.

This photo, taken from the parking lot of Golden Valley High School, shows the plume of smoke rising from the still-burning Powerhouse Fire.

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While firefighters made progress toward containing the three-day-old Powerhouse Fire burning north of the Santa Clarita Valley, the blaze still grew to more than 5,000 acres in size as of Saturday night, according to officials.

The 5,561-acre fire, which has been burning since early Thursday afternoon, is approximately 20 percent contained but has reportedly forced up to 2,000 people to evacuate and threatens about 250 structures, Angeles National Forest Safety Officer Ron Ashdale said Saturday at 6 p.m.

Ashdale said Saturday’s weather, which featured low humidity and temperatures near 100 degrees, played a role in the rapid growth of the fire.

“The fire has also changed directions three times so far,” Ashdale said. “So that’s been a challenge.”

While the fire has largely burned north toward Elizabeth Lake and Lake Hughes since Thursday, it switched directions Saturday and began to burn back toward Castaic Lake, casting huge amounts of smoke and ash into the air of the Santa Clarita Valley.

The fire changed direction again around 3:30 p.m. and as of Saturday night was burning northwest near the area of Red Fox Canyon, Ashdale said.

The fire was first reported shortly after 3:30 p.m. Thursday near a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power plant in San Francisquito Canyon.

Because of the presence of smoke and ash in the air, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued air quality warning for residents of the Santa Clarita Valley and the San Gabriel Valley Mountains.

“In all areas of visible smoke or where there is an odor of smoke, all individuals are urged to be cautious and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities,” said county Health Officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding in a news release.

Officials from the Department of Public Health are urging the organizers of outdoor activities, such as Little Leagues, to suspend practices and games in areas where smoke is visible, or where there is an odor of smoke.

Smoky conditions as a result of the fire are expected to last through the weekend.

 

(Timelapse video of smoke from the Powerhouse Fire courtesy of David Achilles, www.achilles.tv.)

The shifting fire also caused a number of road closures. Officials closed Lake Hughes Road from Cottonwood Camp to Castaic Lake to keep the roadway clear for fire personnel, Ashdale said.

Only Santa Clarita residents and emergency personnel are allowed to enter San Francisquito Canyon Road at Copper Hill Drive, according to a news release from the Palmdale Sheriff's Station.

Even before the fire changed course, its growth forced additional evacuations Saturday morning along Lake Hughes Road, including Cottonwood Campground and two youth detention camps.

Additional evacuations of Elizabeth Lake, Lake Hughes, Green Valley and other areas north of Castaic Lake also were evacuated around 6 p.m. Saturday, Ashdale said.

“Castaic Lake is the southern boundary (of the evacuation area),” Ashdale said.

The area of Elizabeth Lake Canyon and the Camp Mendenhall probation facility, located at 42230 N. Lake Hughes Road, were evacuated early Friday afternoon as a result of the fire.

Ashdale said he did not know how many people had been evacuated, but reports indicate that as many as 2,000 people have been evacuated.

Ashdale said residents living close to the burn area should be prepared to evacuate quickly if they receive notice to do so.

“Think a little bit ahead and decide, ‘If the knock comes on my door, am I ready?’” Ashdale said.

Complicating firefighting efforts is the rugged terrain and dense brush in the area.

Angeles National Forest Sonia Valdivia said the primary area of the fire has not burned in about a decade.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

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