Breaking News Blog

Friday, May 17 2013 06:17 PM

Fire line built around Grand Fire; new blaze in Santa Clarita

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Near Frazier Mountain High School, Kern County Fire Department Public Information Officers Corey Wilford, right, and Ken Scott, in truck, get updates on the Grand Fire burning in the mountains behind them.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Smoke from the Grand Fire rises in the area of the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreational Area.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    A Ventura County Sheriff Fire Support helicopter flies toward the Grand Fire near Lebec.

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By CALIFORNIAN STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

SANTA CLARITA -- As firefighters took on the stubborn 3-day-old Grand Fire in rough terrain southeast of Frazier Park, a second blaze broke out Friday evening 30 miles away near Interstate 5, quickly surging to more than 500 acres, briefly threatening an elementary school and leading to the precautionary evacuation of nearly 20 homes.

The new fire was burning very close to I-5 during the busy Friday night commute. The freeway has seen wildfire activity in its surrounding hills all week. One southbound lane was closed because of the firefight.

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Crews were helped by relatively mild temperatures, but unpredictable winds and very difficult terrain made progress slow.

Progress was made Friday on the 4,300-acre Grand Fire, with firefighters reaching 55 percent containment by Friday evening.

Firefighters Friday completed construction of a line around the perimeter of the blaze, the cause of which remains unknown, Cal Fire said.

Hungry Valley State Park and Piru Creek recreation areas, and the roads to them, remained closed.

Full containment wasn't expected until Monday, Cal Fire said. Resources devoted to the blaze included 84 fire engines and 11 helicopters. The effort involved 1,853 firefighters and others.

Some resources might be dismissed Saturday, officials said.

The blaze began Wednesday and resulted in the evacuation of Frazier Mountain High School. Growing fast, the fire initially threatened six structures, but none were damaged, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"The message we're sharing with the public is we all need to take extra precautions in the forest when conditions are so dry," Los Padres Forest Supervisor Peggy Hernandez said in the news release. "It's important to recognize that fires can occur at any time of the year and we need to be vigilant year round."

Separately, in Santa Clarita, firefighters

used air and ground attacks to douse the flames closest to Northlake Hills Elementary School and stop a looming threat.

The school had a large defensible space around it, so it was easy to protect, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Scott Miller said.

The campus was put on lockdown and buses were put on standby for a time in case hundreds of kindergarten through fifth-grade students needed to be evacuated.

After the flames were redirected, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Allen said the students were released to their parents without incident.

Although the fire was still some distance from the homes on Elk Ridge Road and Vista Point Place, Miller said residents of 19 houses were asked to leave as a precaution.

The fire was moving toward Castaic Lake.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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