Firefighters battled wildfires in the San Fernando Valley all day Tuesday, which was caused by the fast-moving Santa Ana winds, burning more than 13,285 acres.
The Valley witnessed another day of raging fires, which left more than 742 residents of Porter Ranch homeless. The Sesnon fire, which took place in the Porter Ranch area Monday morning, continued to move from one direction to another leading firefighters to evacuate homes which residents didn’t believe to be threatened.
‘Our focus is on the people and their properties,’ said Captain Carlos Cavillo with the Los Angeles Fire Department. ‘They might think they’re safe, but the fire is moving unexpectedly, so we don’t want to risk their lives.’
Fire engines were sent from all around the Los Angeles County to help put out the uncontained fire. ‘We are here from the Sherman Oaks unit to give a relief break to all those firefighters who have been working on this fire since yesterday,’ said fireman Joe Banon. ‘We are not sure how it’s going to end, it all depends on how the wind is.’
Steven Volmer, a fire captain with San Bernardino County, said the San Fernando Valley will be looking at least another seven days of fires. ‘Zero percent is contained and controlled as of right now for both the (Porter Ranch and Granada Hills) fires so we are making sure all our firemen stay hydrated and safe.’
The Los Angeles Police Department was concerned about other issues during the fire. ‘The LAPD has three missions to cover during these rough times: Traffic concern, successful evacuation, and crime prevention,’ said Mary Grady, LAPD public information officer. ‘We are working together with the fire departments to make sure they get their job done, so we need to help out as much as we can.’
Officer Musser of the LAPD Van Nuys division said it was very challenging for them to keep track of the fires.
‘It’s been crazy dealing with two fires at the same time,’ Musser said.
A resident of the Porter Ranch area, Young Lee, was convinced he should not have left his house.
‘I was sleeping when the firemen asked me to evacuate immediately and I didn’t have anytime to pack anything,’ said Lee.
Judeth Arner, another evacuee at Shepherd on the Hills church, said she and her husband didn’t evacuate till 4:40 a.m. on Tuesday.
‘We didn’t know serious it was till we were evacuated,’ Arner said. ‘I am getting everything I need here, but I am worried about my house.’
Volunteers came together to help families in need of support. ‘We had many volunteers who were helping out last night who are wearing a Red Cross Customer sticker who are not evacuees themselves,’ said church volunteer Richard Rutherford.
‘Communication is really good between the evacuees, volunteers, and firemen’hellip;We are able to keep the evacuated residents updated about the situation.’ Rutherford said.
Shepherd of the Hills church, one of the evacuation centers, kept its doors open to all evacuees to come in and provided all service needed.
‘As of today, the total count of evacuees at our facility is 742 residents, 247 evacuees which were registered today,’ said a volunteer church member, Heidi McConell.
‘Prayer groups are everywhere for the victims to turn to, they will need it,’ said Rutherford.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa visited the church and thanked all the volunteers with appreciation of the donations and resources that were provided to all the evacuees. Many evacuees talked to the mayor, asking him when they will be allowed back to their homes.
‘We wouldn’t ask you to leave if it wasn’t dangerous,’ Villaraigosa said to residents.
Villaraigosa was very pleased with the effort that was put into turning the church into an evacuation center. He said people will get to meet each other and live through the same crisis, ‘sometimes in crisis we can find beauty,’ he said.
The mayor also shared with the public that he has raised another budget plan to help with the fire crisis that Southern California is facing.
‘The governor declared a state of emergency that allows us to access state federal funds for compensation,’ he said. ‘We expect a U.S. declaration of emergency as well.’
Porter Ranch evacuee and a CSUN student Jady Dorthman helped firemen through a fire that started beginning of Monday night.
‘A homeowner asked for help when he saw fire behind his house, it was about 100 yards away from the house,’ Dorthman said.
He and his friend worked on the fire for five hours, along with another firefighter that appreciated the help he received from Dorthman.
‘We use buckets of water’hellip;We were able to put out the fire and the hotspots that surrounded the area.’
Dorthman said he is considering becoming a firefighter since he will be graduating from CSUN in December.
According to Yolanda Miranda, an associate director for neighborhood and community services for the office of Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor and his staff took down the names of family members whose houses have been destroyed and will be providing them with temporary housing.
The cause of both the Granada Hills and the Porter Ranch fires is still under investigation.