A fire that has engulfed more than 5,000 acres in the Sun Valley and Burbank areas is now one of the largest blazes in Los Angeles history, with the potential to do even more damage, fire officials said Saturday.
"The biggest factor is weather and the wind," Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Ralph Terrazas said of the so-called La Tuna fire, during a news conference. "If there is no wind, this fire is relatively easy to put out. The wind changes, it changes our priorities."
Hundreds of firefighters, as well as four fixed-wing air tankers, have been battling the fire that erupted Friday around 1:25 p.m. near the 10800 block of La Tuna Canyon Road.
The fast-moving fire prompted mandatory evacuations in Burbank, Tujunga, Sunland and parts of adjacent neighborhoods.
Andrea Heintz, 78, fled from her home, where she and her husband have lived since 1970, after learning of the mandatory evacuations while watching the news, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“It was really scary,” she said. “You didn’t realize the magnitude of it.”
Heintz packed up her belongings, but her husband stayed behind.
Peter Glassberg, 64, another resident in the crosshairs of the fire, stayed up all Friday night watching the flames before heading out the door at 9 a.m. Saturday, when the mandatory evacuations began.
“I looked inside and I said, ‘No, it can go, it can go,’ ” Glassberg told the L.A. Times. “It makes you face what’s important in your life.”
In response to the growing intensity of the fire, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a declaration of local emergency, which prompts Gov. Jerry Brown to declare an emergency so state and federal aid can be provided to assist in battling the blaze.
In all, more than 700 homes have been evacuated, and authorities are encouraging those living in affected areas be prepared to leave, Fox 11 reported.
Due to poor air quality from the heavy smoke, authorities also urged people to stay indoors.
The last fire of this significance in the area was 30 to 40 years ago, officials said.