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Brush fire burns out of control in Angeles National Forest

The Powerhouse fire north of Castaic forces authorities to evacuate residents as flames burn near homes and threaten high-voltage power lines.

May 30, 2013|By Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times

A brush fire in the Angeles National Forest north of Castaic burned out of control Thursday night, destroying one structure and forcing authorities to evacuate residents as flames burned near homes and threatened high-voltage power lines.

The Powerhouse fire spread quickly amid high winds throughout the afternoon and had charred at least 1,000 acres of dry brush and chaparral along San Francisquito Canyon, fire officials said.

As night descended, a helicopter was searching for hikers who may be missing in the area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. One hiker was spotted Thursday evening about three miles west of the Green Valley ranger station but was not in distress or danger, a county Fire Department spokesman said. The hiker was safely escorted out of the area.

Six other hikers apparently believed missing were found Thursday night and left the area safely, Lt. Steve Sylvies of the Palmdale sheriff's station said.

The winds had died Thursday night, but fire officials were concerned about temperatures expected to reach into the 90s on Friday and Saturday. They said the warm weather could dry vegetation even more.

"Heat is going to be our big enemy," county Fire Inspector Anthony Akins told The Times.

As the blaze more than doubled in size from 300 acres Thursday afternoon, mandatory evacuations were ordered in the Green Valley area between San Francisquito Canyon Road and Bouquet Reservoir, sheriff's officials said. About 200 people were evacuated, authorities said, but were expected to be allowed to return late Thursday.

Akins, who was in Green Valley late Thursday, said in a telephone interview that flames were just a quarter-mile away. "There remains a significant threat," he said.

About 500 firefighters were working to contain the flames, which earlier in the day were being stoked by wind gusts of more than 20 mph. The temperature was in the mid-80s, the National Weather Service said.

Crews on the ground worked to cut containment lines, but winds caused spot fires to burn outside the perimeter, according to fire officials. As huge clouds of smoke billowed above San Francisquito Canyon, commanders on the ground requested additional firefighters and aircraft to battle the blaze, said Angeles National Forest spokesman Nathan Judy.

The blaze broke out shortly before 4 p.m. near a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power facility in Francisquito Canyon near Drinkwater Reservoir, officials said. At least one structure, believed to be a utility building, was destroyed.

At one point, fixed-wing aircraft dropped orange fire retardant as flames burned next to electrical towers. Some of the lines supply power to Los Angeles, utility officials said. No power outages were reported.

The blaze also forced authorities to close San Francisquito Canyon Road from Copper Hill Drive to Spunky Canyon Road.

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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