A massive brush fire Saturday in the Calabasas area forced mandatory evacuations as rapid flames consumed 516 acres and threatened 3,000 homes, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
"This is a fast-moving, dangerous fire," Los Angeles County Fire Chief Dennis Cross said. "It's hard for people to see where this fire is because of the dense canopy and the canyons."
The fire forced the mandatory evacuations of 5,000 people in the Highlands, Eddingham and Adamsville neighborhoods, fire officials said.
"Nobody can sit in their driveways or sit in their houses and ride this out. They need to get in their car and evacuate immediately," Cross said.
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As of 6:45 a.m. Sunday, the blaze was 30 percent contained, Capt. Keith Mora said.
Homeowners were emotional as they packed their cars with anything they could grab and were forced to evacuate.
Deputies grabbed hoses and began defending strangers' townhomes before firefighters arrived.
Residents living as far away as Studio City found ash sprinkled on their cars as smoke permeated through SoCal.
The fire was reported at 4 p.m. in the area of 23062 Mulholland Highway, and began edging closer to homes.
Old Topanga Boulevard was closed between Pacific Coast Highway and Cezanne Avenue as 1,000 firefighters, three water-dropping helicopters, and 24 engines were working to extinguish the blaze.
At least three homes were damaged, fire officials said, in addition to a nature conservancy building at Mulholland Highway and Old Topanga Canyon Road that was completely gutted by the blaze.
The fire was ignited after a driver lost control of a sport utility vehicle and crashed into power poles, downing lines in three different places, Mora said. All of the hot spots merged into one massive blaze, dubbed the "Old Fire."
A propane tank exploded into flames in front of Calabasas Klubhouse Pre-School as the heat from the fire crept closer to the structure, located at 3655 Old Topanga Canyon Road. A team of firefighters was defending the preschool.
Initially, a few thousand Southern California Edison customers experienced power outages after the car slammed into the power pole, David Song of SoCal Edison said. By 7 p.m., fewer than 200 were experiencing outages. Song said power should be fully restored by 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department reported that one firefighter suffered a minor injury while battling the blaze.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Lost Hills Station was in charge of evacuations. Residents were being evacuated to Agoura High School at 28545 West Driver Avenue.
Anyone with large animals was asked to evacuate to Los Angeles Pierce College at 6201 Winnetka Avenue in Woodland Hills.
The mandatory evacuations were extended to the zones in Old Topanga Canyon area until 8 a.m., the California Highway Patrol said.
Residents in the Calabasas area would be allowed to return home by 2 a.m., but power may still be out, LA County Fire officials said.
The large fire came as NBC4 Meteorologist Shanna Mendiola warned of excessive heat warnings across SoCal, along with dry winds.
A second fire began burning at 4:20 p.m. in the West Hills area, the same time as the Old Fire. Light wind was fueling the two-acre blaze, pushing it downhill into a ravine at Kittridge Street and Valley Circle, according to LA County Fire.
The blaze was about five miles north of the Calabasas blaze, and was extinguished by 6:40 p.m., with no injuries or homes burned.
Earlier in the morning, a brush fire in Temecula put drivers on high alert as it scorched 70 acres, forcing a closure of lanes on the southbound 15 Freeway. By the evening, and it was 20 percent contained.
Another smaller blaze was reported in the Santa Clarita area amid rising temperatures, burning one-eighth of an acre near Decoro Drive and McBean Parkway.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department compiled tips for what do if confronted with a fire. Experts advise to not stop to gather your belongings — just get out of the house if mandatory evacuations are ordered. "Call the Fire Department from a neighbor’s telephone after you are out of the house," a tip sheet read.
Calabasas is a city of about 24,000 residents in the hills west of the San Fernando Valley and northwest of downtown Los Angeles. It is home to several affluent gated communities and numerous celebrities.
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