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Powerhouse fire grows overnight; at least 5 structures destroyed

June 02, 2013|By Ruben Vives

The Powerhouse fire destroyed at least five structures during a wind-fueled assault on Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth on Saturday and has burned nearly 20,000 acres. The 4-day-old fire in the Palmdale area grew rapidly in size overnight amid the hot, dry conditions.

As of Saturday afternoon, only 3,600 acres had burned.

Authorities were still trying to determine how many structures were lost when the fire bore down on the lake communities. Hundreds of residents remain evacuated, and nearly 1,000 fire personnel remain on the fire lines.

PHOTOS: Powerhouse fire

Firefighters on Saturday night rescued people from homes and had some close calls. At one point, a fire station was surrounded by flames.

Water-dropping helicopters were used to make night drops, helping beat back the flames from the communities.

Lake Hughes resident Patty Robitaille, 61, sat in her car Saturday night and watched the Powerhouse fire burning at the top of a nearby hill.

Inside the vehicle, her pit bull, Roxie, slept amid the belongings Robitaille was able to grab before she was forced to evacuate.

"I grabbed pictures and documents," Robitaille said.   

The Caltrans employee said she had pulled over at the intersection of Johnson and Elizabeth Lake roads to wait for her boyfriend and son, who stayed behind to water down their house.

Robitaille said her home on Muir Drive and Lake Hughes Road was among the first in the direct path of the fire.

MAP: Critical areas

She said the fire had burned on the ridge of the mountain at 6:15 p.m. Within an hour, the flames had reached the back of her home.  

"It kept  going and going," Robitaille said. "Driving away, you could see the town burning up," she added. "I don’t think there’s going to be much left."

She said she noticed flames near Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes Union Elementary  School, the Lancaster Fire Station and the post office. The buildings sit along the north side of Lake Elizabeth Road.

“It was horrible,” Robitaille said. “Everything happened fast.”

Across the intersection, in a small empty lot, Elizabeth Lake resident Sara Ford, 43, waited in her SUV for her husband and two sons. They too had stayed behind to protect their home, she said.

Ford said her home is in the Club Ranch area, which sits on the western part of the Elizabeth Lake Golf Course.

"We have had fires out here before, but this is the closest that it's ever been in my 18 years of living here," Ford said.

At 11:35 p.m. the fire had burned slightly down the side of the hill.  The air got smokier and the orange glow in the sky turned brighter as the flames grew.  Ash fell everywhere. 

A squad of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies made their way down on Elizabeth Lake Road and into Alderwood Road, where dozens of homes sat on the east side of the golf course.

Not far, Stephanie Purdy, 43, and her boyfriend JJ Azan, 43, watched the fire. They listened to a scanner through a phone app. At one point, a propane tank exploded in the distance. 

"It’s devastating for Lake Hughes," Purdy said.


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Powerhouse fire grows overnight; at least 5 structures destroyed

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