SANTA CLARITA VALLEY, Calif., July 26 (UPI) — Firefighters began beating back the fire that has scorched 37,473 acres in the Santa Clarita Valley in Southern California.
The Sand Fire, named after the area’s Sand Canyon, was 25 percent contained Tuesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service, but still covered roughly 57 square miles.
The fire destroyed at least 18 homes, and the body of a man was found Saturday night in a burned-out car near a neighborhood where a house was on fire. Robert Bresnick, 67, was visiting a friend at the location, and had been advised by authorities to leave, said Ed Winter, assistant chief of the L.A. County Coroner’s Office.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared a “state of local emergency” Tuesday because of the fire.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also issued an air quality advisory Tuesday for the Santa Clarita, Antelope and San Gabriel valleys, as well as the San Gabriel Mountains area. Los Angeles County Interim Health Officer Jeffrey Gunzenhauser advises people in the areas with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory diseases to minimize outdoor activities.
More than 3,000 firefighters worked overnight to fight the fire, which started Friday and grew to 10,000 acres in one day.
Because of five years of drought, the hillsides outside Santa Clarita are covered in chaparral and oak that is dry.
Also, last winter’s weak El Niño allowed grass to grow in the canyons and foothills. And without rainfall, the grass has dried out and become dead in the hot weather. Temperatures reached 101 degrees Monday.
“The fires are getting bigger quicker, they’re creating more heat and tend to be more intense and more difficult to put out,” Justin Correll, a firefighter and spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, told public radio station KPCC.
In California’s Central Coast, firefighters are battling the Soberanes Fire, which has burned 19,311 acres along the coast between the scenic areas of Carmel and Big Sur. The fire, which began Friday, is 10 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.
Most of the approximate 20,000 residents evacuated because of the Sand fire were allowed to return to their homes Monday night.