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Brush Fire Forces Evacuation of Lake Elizabeth in L.A. County

June 29, 1989|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | Times Staff Writer

A brush fire pushed by wind gusts up to 40 m.p.h. blazed through more than 3,700 acres in the mountains rimming the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of the isolated rural community of Lake Elizabeth.

At least one home and two barns were destroyed, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.

The fire was about 30% contained Wednesday night, and full containment was expected this afternoon, fire officials said. It was burning northeastward into mostly empty land between Elizabeth lake and the California aqueduct, battled by a force of 200 county firefighters and 100 from the U.S. Forest Service, backed by four helicopters and four fixed-wing planes dropping retardant. Firefighters were helped by a drop in wind strength to 10 to 20 m.p.h., County Fire Department spokesman Corry Lover said.

No injuries were reported.

The fire broke out shortly before 2 p.m. near the San Francisquito Canyon Campground and roared toward the northeast, threatening Lake Elizabeth, a community of about 2,500 on the chain of lakes along the San Andreas fault, about 15 miles west of Lancaster.

The cause was undetermined, County Fire Department spokesmen said.

Sheriff's deputies drove the roads of Lake Elizabeth, urging inhabitants to flee as the fire came to within yards of the southern edge of the community. Sheriff's and Fire Department spokesmen estimated the number of evacuees at 1,000 to 1,500.

Many of them gathered at roadblocks at the foot of the mountains, where they were joined by other residents, trying to hurry home from jobs in Los Angeles.

The fire was so hot that "I was surprised we only lost one home," said Assistant Fire Chief Leon Provost. Flames surrounded some homes and burned within inches of the structures before firefighters beat them back, he said.

The Red Cross established an evacuation center at Quartz Hill High School, but residents were allowed to return to their homes shortly after nightfall.

Times staff writers Gabe Fuentes and Richard Lee Colvin contributed to this report.

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