A Los Angeles bush fire has burned 4,700 acres, destroyed 25 homes, and prompted evacuations for 100,00 people — here are the latest updates

Business Insider Lifestyle 1 month ago

A rapidly growing bush fire that began in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles late Thursday has burned over 4,700 acres and prompted evacuation orders for over 100,000 residents.

The blaze, dubbed the Saddleridge Fire, has spread across the San Fernando Valley and destroyed at least 25 buildings and homes as of Friday morning. 

Over 1,000 firefighters are battling the flames, the LA Fire Department said on Friday. No areas of the fire have been contained yet.

One man died in the hospital after going into cardiac arrest while talking to firefighters, the Los Angeles Times reported. One firefighter suffered a minor eye injury.

Mandatory evacuations around Sylmar

The mandatory evacuations affect neighborhoods north of the 118 freeway, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has marked those areas on a live online map. The locations under urgent mandatory evacuation orders are highlighted in red, while "evacuation warning" areas are in yellow.

In a tweet, the LAPD said in those who live in the yellow zones should "be prepared to evacuate immediately if needed." 

Four evacuation centers — in Mason Park, Granada Hills, Sylmar, and Northridge — are full. The Lanark Recreation Center opened its doors to evacuees on Friday morning.

Portions of four major freeways (the 5, the southbound lanes of 14, northbound 405, and the 210 in both directions) have been closed.

Hotter temperatures fuel bigger fires

In recent years, warmer temperatures across the western US have caused more land to burn. Of the 10 largest wildfires in California history, nine have occurred since the year 2003.

The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive in California history: A total 7,500 fires burned over 1,670,000 acres — more land than any previous fire season. The Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history, killed 85 people and burned the entire town of Paradise in November.

That fire was caused by electrical transmission lines belonging to Pacific Gas & Electric, California's largest electric utility, Cal Fire determined after an investigation in May. To prevent another such disaster, PG&E shut off power to 800,000 residents in northern California ahead of dry, windy conditions this week.

California fire experts say the entire concept of a wildfire season might be outdated, since dangerous fires can occur at any time of year now.

"We're responding to wildland fires year round now," Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean told the Sacramento Bee last year. 

Experts say that trend will continue as the effects of climate change keep getting worse. California's 2018 Climate Change Assessment report estimated that the average area burned in wildfires will increase 77% by the year 2100 if greenhouse-gas emissions continue to increase.

A study published Tuesday also showed that warm, dry conditions are fueling more severe fires in the Sierra Nevada region.

"Our data show that climate has been the main driver of fire on a regional scale," Richard Vachula, the study's lead author, said in a release. "We find that warm and dry conditions promote fire, which in light of climate model predictions suggests that future fires may be more extensive than we have observed in the last century."

What's more, exceptionally wet winters are no longer tempering catastrophic summer fires, according to a study published in January.

"We're in uncharted territory," California Governor Jerry Brown said last year. "Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven't had this kind of heat condition, and it's going to continue getting worse."

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