SANTA CLARITA >> Homicide detectives are investigating the death of a man whose body was discovered late Saturday inside a car charred by the raging Sand fire in Santa Clarita, which has consumed more than 22,000 acres and 18 homes, authorities said Sunday.
The body, described only as that of a man, was discovered about 7:20 p.m. in the 26700 block of Iron Canyon Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“Firefighters battling the Sand fire discovered the remains of an unknown person inside a burned small compact sedan that was parked in the driveway of a residence,” Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. “At this time, there is no indication that the death was a criminal event.”
Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s investigators were working to determine the identity of the victim, as well as his cause of death.
The Sand fire ignited Friday afternoon near the 14 Freeway and Sand Canyon Road, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which was working to battle the flames in unified command with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Eighteen homes were destroyed by the fire, and another was damaged, authorities announced Sunday morning.
“Residents in Sand Canyon and Placenta Canyon should remain vigilant. Residents in Soledad Canyon going into Agua Dulce and Acton should remain on high alert,” USFS officials said in a statement.
An estimated 1,500 homes and 100 commercial structures were threatened by the fire, with tens of thousands more potentially in harms way, depending on the fire’s behavior in the coming hours and days.
Hundreds of homes remained under evacuation orders.
Officials initially established an evacuation center at Golden Valley High School, but moved it to Hart High School, 24825 Newhall Ave., Saturday night, sheriff’s officials said. Another evacuation center was established at the Lakeview Terrace Recreation Center, 11075 Foothill Blvd. in Lakeview Terrace.
More than 1,600 firefighters were fighting the Sand fire Sunday, using 122 engines, 39 hand crews, 8 bulldozers and 15 helicopters, according to the USFS. It was 10 percent contained.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> Coroner’s officials and sheriff’s homicide investigators continued working Friday to recover the remains of two people discovered in an area burned during the recent San Gabriel Complex fires in the Angeles National Forest north of Azusa, authorities said.
The badly charred remains were first discovered shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday along San Gabriel Canyon Road, near the origin point of the Reservoir Fire, which was ignited June 20 when a pickup truck crashed off the side of the road, bursting into flames and killing the driver.
“The identification and gender of the remains are unknown as they were burned beyond recognition,” according to Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
“Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner personnel indicate it may take approximately four weeks to accurately identify the remains,” she said.
A passery-by first reported making the grisly discovery.
“A fire crew from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, working in the area, was flagged down by a person who indicated they had located human remains,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Sheriff’s officials responded to the scene but did not immediately find the remains described by the witness, officials said.
“The Los Angeles County Fire Department conducted an initial search from the air, but did not locate any signs of remains in the steep and rough terrain,” according to the statement.
Members of the San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team continued searching on the ground and ultimately found “what appears to be the human remains of two people,” according to Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The remains were discovered on a ravine just east of the Morris Dam, Winter said.
Sheriff’s officials cordoned off the scene and kept watch overnight. Sheriff’s homicide detectives and coroner’s Special Operations and Recovery Team members, who specialize in excavating and recovering remains, returned to the site at dawn Friday to resume their investigation and recovery efforts.
The remains were exhumed Friday afternoon, officials said.
It was unclear whether the death were a result of the fire, or occurred before it began.
The Reservoir Fire grew to more than 1,100 acres before being contained, U.S. Forest Service officials said.
About 90 minutes after the Reservoir Fire ignited, a second fire broke out in the hillsides north of Duarte, officials said. The Fish Fire, named due to it’s proximity to Fish Canyon, scorched more than 4,200 acres before being contained. The cause remained under investigation Friday, U.S. Forest Service Fire spokesman Nathan Judy said.
The two separate but nearby wildfires were christened the San Gabriel Complex fires.
PHOTO: Los Angeles sheriff’s County Deputy Harper looks over a ridge on June 23, 2016, where a truck was found that was believed to have started the Reservoir Fire, one half of the two-fire San Gabriel Complex Fire, that ignited in the Angeles National Forest north of the San Gabriel Valley on June 20, 2016. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
PASADENA >> Firefighters rescued a cockatiel and saved residents’ prized possessions after a “stubborn” fire scorched a Pasadena Saturday afternoon.
A young man and woman who were home when the fire ignited about 1 p.m. along Las Lunas Street, just west of Altadena Drive, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
Both occupants, a brother and sister, managed to get of the home before firefighters arrived after being alerted to the fire by smoke alarms and the smell of smoke, she said. The brother was examined for possible smoke inhalation, but did not appear seriously injured.
The “very stubborn” fire remained primarily confined to the home’s attic and roof, Derderian said. Firefighters worked for about half an hour to extinguish it.
Firefighters rescued a caged pet cockatiel from the burning home, and also managed to save a poster autographed by basketball star Kobe Bryant, at the request of a resident, she said.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation. A dollar-value estimate of the damage was not yet available, however Derderian described the damage to the home as “significant.”
PHOTOS courtesy of Pasadena Fire Department Chief Bertral Washington
MONTEBELLO>> Ten horses died in a fire that tore through a Montebello stable early Sunday, officials said.
The fire was first reported a few minutes after midnight at a large stable in the 300 block of South Bluff Road.
It quickly grew to consume a 120-foot by 170-foot section of the large stable, Montebello Fire Department Battalion Chief Richard Fredrickson said.
“It took about an hour for us to get more-or-less control,” he said. The fire was declared extinguished about two hours after it began.
Ten horses inside the stables died in the fire, Fredrickson said. No people were hurt.
Montebello police and firefighters managed to evacuate another 22 horses unharmed, according to Montebello police and fire officials.
Representatives of the stable could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation, Fredrickson said.
“We’re still looking into everything. We haven’t ruled anything out,” the battalion chief said.
Police had not been asked to get involved to get involved investigation Sunday, Montebello police Lt. Rick Rojas said.
A dollar-value estimate of the damage was not available.
— LA County Sheriff’s (@LASDHQ) June 18, 2016
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> Firefighters made quick work of a 5-acre brush fire that ignited Saturday on a rifle range at the Burro Canyon Shooting Park along East Fork Road in the Angeles National Forest, officials said.
The fire, dubbed the Burro fire, was first reported just before 11 a.m. on a rifle range at the shooting range, along East Fork Road just east of San Gabriel Canyon Road, U.S. Forest Service Fire Information Officer Nathan Judy said.
The fire grew to 4 to 5 acres in size by early afternoon, but was already 20 to 40 percent contained, according to U.S. Forest Service and Los Angeles County Fire Department officials. County firefighters assisted their federal counterparts.
Officials announced the fire had been 100 percent contained shortly after 3 p.m.
Eight fire engines, as well as firefighting aircraft, were summoned to battle the blaze, which burned through light to medium brush on moderately steep terrain, he said.
California Highway Patrol officers shut down San Gabriel Canyon Road leading into the forest as Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies headed into the forest to prepare for any possible evacuations, should they become necessary, sheriff’s Lt. Elisabeth Sachs said.
Officials ended up evacuating the shooting range itself, but other nearby recreation areas, such as Crystal Lake, remained open.
All affected forest roads were reopened once the fire was extinguished.
U.S. Forest Service officials raised the Fire Danger Level in the Angeles National Forest from “High” to “Very High” on Monday ahead of this weekend’s predicted heat wave.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation. Judy pointed out that steel-core bullets are prohibited on the shooting range due to the risk of sparks igniting a wildfire.
Judy said the Burro Fire burned up against the already-charred areas scorched by last year’s 1,700-acre Cabin Fire.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
SAN DIMAS >> Despite wet weather, firefighters battled a two-acre brush fire that ignited along the 57 Freeway in San Dimas Friday afternoon, officials said.
The fire was first reported about 1:15 p.m. as several small spot fires along the southbound 57 Freeway near Via Verde, Los Angeles County Fire Department Firefighter Humberto Agurcia said.
A “full response,” including fire-fighting aircraft, were summoned to the scene as the blaze scorched about two acres within an hour, fire officials said.
“All of our engines are working this aggressively,” Agurcia said as the fire continued burning.
Fire officials declared the 2-acre fire 100 percent contained just before 3 p.m.
No injuries were reported, and no structured were threatened, he said.
The fire remained confined to the west side of the freeway, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials added.
The California Highway Patrol issued a Sig Alert for the two right-hand lanes of the southbound 57 Freeway as firefighters continued their work Friday afternoon.
EL MONTE >> A fire broke out Saturday at vacant business that formerly housed a gunpowder manufacturing facility, authorities said.
The fire was first reported at 4:49 p.m. along Arden Drive, near the railroad tracks just north of Valley Boulevard, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Cheryl Simms said.
Firefighters could see smoke rising from the 30-foot by 60-foot building as they were still a mile away, she said.
No significant explosions were reported, however firefighters approached the fire cautiously upon learning of its previous use, officials said.
But officials soon confirmed the building was vacant and empty, Simms said. Firefighters declared the blaze extinguished about 5:15 p.m. No injuries were reported.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
INDUSTRY >> An arson fire scorched an Industry warehouse packed with paper goods Wednesday, authorities said.
The fire was first reported about 2:45 a.m. at a 55,000-square-foot warehouse in the 700 block of South 5th Avenue, Los Angeles Count fire and sheriff’s officials said.
Though largely “kept in check” by the building’s sprinkler system, firefighters battled the stubborn blaze for nearly two hours until it was declared extinguished, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Randall Wright said. No injuries were reported.
But firefighters determined the scene of the fire appeared suspicious and called in investigators from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail, Wright said.
“The cause is arson,” sheriff’s Detective Cynthia Valencia said. It appeared the arsonist spread gasoline around in the rear portion of the warehouse before lighting it on fire.
The intent of the arsonists appeared to be to destroy the building, but they were thwarted by the businesses’ fire-suppression system, she added.
“(The) sprinkler system did a great job,” Valencia said.
Preliminary estimated of the damage cause to the warehouse, as well as the paper plates, paper cups and other similar items stored inside ranged between $300,000 and $500,000, the detective said.
A subleased portion of the warehouse, which is used as a packaging business, was unscathed, she said.
Investigators continued seeking clues Thursday, and trying to determine who would want to torch the warehouse, Valencia said.
The arsonists were described only as two men, driving a sedan.
“The owner is very cooperative,” Valencia said.
Firefighters remained at the scene until about noon, Wright said.
Any witnesses, or anyone who saw anything suspicious early Wednesday morning is asked to contact Detective Valencia at the sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail at 323-881-7500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
TEMPLE CITY >> Firefighters made quick work of a fire in a residential garage that may have been sparked by the spontaneous combustion of varnish-soaked rags, authorities said.
The fire was reported just before 12:15 p.m. in a detached residential garage in the 5200 block of Halifax Road, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Nick Yslas said.
Firefighters arrived within minutes, and declared the flames “knocked down” about 10 minutes after that, he said.
No one was home at the time, he said.
One firefighter was hospitalized with heat exhaustion, the captain said. The injury was considered minor.
The officials cause of the fire remained under investigation, Yslas said.
But firefighters suspected that varnish-soaked rags, left behind after the residence varnished furniture in the garage, he said.
Rags soaked with oil or other chemicals can spontaneously ignite via chemical reaction in a phenomenon known as “pyrolysis,” the captain explained.
Officials estimated the fire caused $65,000 worth of damage to the garage and its contents, Yslas said.
COVINA >> Authorities Wednesday released the identity of an elderly woman who died Friday in a fire at her home labeled “suspicious” by homicide detectives.
Helen Lambert, 89, died at the scene of the fire, which ignited about 2 p.m. at the home she shared with her grandson in the 20900 block of Mesarica Road, in an unincorporated county area near Covina, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials.
Her charred remains were discovered by firefighters as they extinguished the blaze, which was primarily isolated to a bedroom toward the rear of the home.
An officials cause of death was yet to be determined by coroner’s investigators, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. An autopsy has been completed, however, the cause of death has been deferred pending additional investigation.
Sheriff’s officials initially said arson was suspected in the fatal fire.
Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau later described the fire as “suspicious” in nature, but declined to discuss what about the fire caught the attention of investigators. No arrests have been made.
The grandson, described by a friend as 18 years old, was not injured in the fire.
A friend of the grandson, 22-year-old Gabriel Garcia of Glendora, said he had just arrived to visit the grandson when his friend told him the house was on fire, and his grandmother was inside, Garcia said.
The two young men smashed a window or glass for at the rear of the home, but were unable to enter due to the extreme heat and thick smoke, Garcia said.
Anyone with information can reach the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.