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Homes Burned, Commercial Structures Threatened As Wildfires Scorch LA

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At least one person is dead, 25 homes damaged, commercial centers threatened and more than 100,000 residents evacuated as a wildfire burns across the Valley area of Los Angeles

The Saddleridge Fire began around 9 p.m. Thursday in Sylmar and has so far burned more than 4,700 acres and spread to nearby neighborhoods Porter Ranch and Granada Hills.

A view of the Saddleridge Fire from Santa Clarita
A view of the Saddleridge Fire from Santa Clarita

Both those communities are under mandatory evacuation and several nearby are under voluntary evacuation orders as the fire spreads under the high gusts of Santa Ana winds. 

At a Friday morning press conference, Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph M. Terrazas said the fire is 0% contained. 

More than 1,000 firefighters across Los Angeles are battling the fire, which is moving at 800 acres per hour, Terrazas said, adding that wind gusts are blowing 50 to 60 miles per hour. 

A person only described as a man in his mid-50s, who was fighting the fire with a garden hose, died of cardiac arrest, according to Los Angeles Fire Department officials.

At least 25 homes in Porter Ranch have been damaged and the fire is currently threatening the Porter Ranch Town Center and Porter Valley Country Club, authorities said.

"It's been a battle," Los Angeles County Fire Chief Deputy Dave Richardson said. "Unfortunately, it's too familiar. We've been here not too long ago." 

Fire officials are asking those who live in the Santa Clarita Valley and Newhall to stay home. Authorities have closed some freeways near the fires, as well as local schools and colleges.   

The Saddleridge Fire is only one fire that firefighters in Southern California are battling. There are at least five more fires burning across Los Angeles and Riverside counties. 

The Sandlewood Fire in Riverside County has charred more than 820 acres and burned down 74 manufactured homes at a mobile home park.

About 16 other commercial and residential structures have been damaged, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire, which began around 2 pm. Thursday, is currently 10% contained. Fire authorities believe a dump truck carrying burning garbage dumped the load near Sandalwood Drive and Seventh Street in Riverside.

The fires come as utility companies in Southern and Northern California are cutting power and utilities to millions of residents as a fire prevention measure. Both Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. began shutting off power in certain high-risk fire locations on Thursday. 

Earlier this year, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. filed for bankruptcy after the company admitted that its equipment may have caused the devastating fires that burned down the town of Paradise and others last year.