California Wildfires Evacuee: 'It was raining fire from the sky'

CNN/ Newswire | 7/27/2016, 9:01 a.m.
Fanned by scorching heat, windy conditions and a five-year drought, a pair of California wildfires has burned tens of thousands ...
The image shows a LA Fire Dept. Air Ops Chopper dropping water over the Sand Fire.

By Madison Park


(CNN) -- Fanned by scorching heat, windy conditions and a five-year drought, a pair of California wildfires has burned tens of thousands of acres in southern and central parts of the state.

On Tuesday, acting California Gov. Tom Torlakson issued emergency proclamations for both fires in Los Angeles and Monterey counties. Torlakson is standing in for Gov. Jerry Brown, who is attending the Democratic National Convention.

In Southern California, the so-called Sand Fire has set more than 37,700 acres of the Santa Clarita Valley ablaze. The fire was 25% contained as of Tuesday evening, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

One person has died in the blaze, at least 18 homes have burned and 20,000 residents had been evacuated, according to fire authorities. On Monday evening, the fire department announced that most of the evacuated residents have been allowed to re-enter the area.

Temperatures hit 101 degrees in the area and dried brush from the parched, drought conditions has helped to spread the fire to about 57 square miles -- a size that is bigger than the city of San Francisco (which is 47 square miles).

Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the flames in extremely volatile conditions. The fires are rolling up and down the canyons in what looks like a wall of flames. Firefighters are having to navigate steep terrains in extremely dry conditions in heavy smoke that clouded the area.

Towering columns of smoke could be seen from miles away, highlighting the dangers of the Sand Fire, named for the area's Sand Canyon. Ash rained down and red skies became the backdrop.

Joey Marron, an inspector with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said Tuesday the fight was going pretty well.

"We set some backfires overnight in some of our areas of concern and this gave us space to contain the fire. We should be good, if the winds don't pick up. It's still very hot out there."

Fire takes a heavy toll

The extent of the fire's damage could be seen from satellite images that showed the burn scars left on the hills and canyons.

The wildfire broke out Friday afternoon and quickly spread about 10,000 acres a day.

A man's body was found in a burned-out car near one neighborhood where a home was singed. Detectives were trying to determine whether the man was killed by the blaze or another cause. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, there was no indication his death was a criminal event. The man's identity is so far unknown.

Of the 18 homes destroyed, three of them belonged to firefighters and four of the structures had been occupied by Forest Service employees, reported CNN affiliate KABC-TV in Los Angeles

The fire also burned parts of the Sable Ranch, where many movies and TV shows were shot, reducing film sets to charred piles of burnt wood and metal. Productions that used the ranch included "The A Team," "Invisible Man" with Chevy Chase," "Terror From Above" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," according to the ranch website.