By Mary O’KEEFE
The Creek Fire that began at 3:44 a.m. on Tuesday in the Lake View Terrace and Tujunga areas has burned 11,377 acres and is 5% contained as of 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The wind has been the main factor in driving this fire.
Firefighters have worked with an “unpredictable wind and we expect extreme winds tonight,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
As of Wednesday evening, evacuations were still in force as officials voiced their concerns about the winds that are expected to have gusts up to 70 miles per hour overnight.
LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger urged residents who are asked to evacuate to do so.
“We [encourage] everybody’s full cooperation with first responders,” she said.
That request was echoed by officials with LA County and LA City, as was the appreciation for everything that the firefighters have done to battle the blazes – not only the Creek Fire but also those working the Rye and Skirball fires.
“Most of our sources are tapped,” said Los Angeles County Fire Dept. Chief Osby.
That is an understatement. Firefighters have been battling the Creek Fire since early Tuesday morning, many of whom were working on the Thomas Fire in Ventura County when they got the call concerning the Creek Fire.
“Panicked,” is how Igor Guman described his feelings of seeing the fire in his Sylmar neighborhood. “This feels like a repeat of the [Sayre] fire in 2008, when we were evacuated and my daughter was 9 months old. Now my son is 4½ months old, and it’s happening again.”
The Rye Fire in Santa Clarita has burned 7,000 acres and is 5% contained, said Osby. The Skirball Fire, which began on Wednesday, has burned 475 acres and is 5% contained.
The largest fire in Southern California is the Thomas Fire in Ventura County. As of 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday it has burned 65,000 acres and is 0% contained.
LA Fire Dept. Chief Ralf Terrazas said they are focusing on the weather. Each day, he said, the fire department receives a weather report. For Thursday, they are expecting 75 degrees Fahrenheit with 4% humidly and winds up to 33 mph.
“The brush burning index is 296. This is the highest number I have seen in my career,” he said.
The index is determined by several factors, including the dead vegetation fuel moisture readings. Meteorologists provide a “fire weather forecast” that predicts high temperature, low humidity and wind speed and direction, and they look at historical data of how the winds might behave.
“The [index] threshold is 165 and this is at 296,” Terrazas said.
As of Wednesday evening, the Creek Fire had moved below the Foothill (210) Freeway and appeared to be heading southwest. But there was still an active blaze in the Little Tujunga area and that is where Osby said he was most concerned.
“It is in rugged terrain,” he said. “Wind is our biggest factor. We are expecting a significant wind event this evening.”
He added that air water drops would probably not happen on Wednesday night into Thursday morning due to the winds, adding that the safety of the pilots would be the priority in making the decision to fly.
There has been an issue with information being shared with the public by some officials on social media that has worried many in Crescenta Valley. It began during a press conference when La Crescenta was mentioned as an evacuation border. This misinformation continued with releases that stated “La Crescenta and Glenoaks Boulevard” were part of an evacuation, and then on Tuesday night a release stating that Crescenta Highlands in Glendale was under mandatory evacuation along with the area west of Lowell Avenue.
“They are wrong,” said Tom Lorenz, Glendale City spokesman, of several of the releases.
Crescenta Valley has not been part of any mandatory evacuations. In Far North Glendale, Crescenta Highlands residents were told by the City of Glendale to be prepared and be aware of the winds, but not to evacuate. Those west of Lowell Avenue were under voluntary evacuation; however, that area is in the City of Los Angeles.
No one in La Crescenta, either in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, east of Pennsylvania Avenue or in Far North Glendale, has been asked to evacuate, either voluntarily or mandatory, said Maria Gycan, spokeswoman for LA County Fire.
However, Osby does remind everyone in the Crescenta Valley area that the wind is unpredictable and residents should still be aware.
For Glendale resident information, visit http://www.glendaleca.gov/government/departments/fire-department/other/emergency-preparedness-response.