With similar weather conditions hanging around Santa
Clarita, many are hoping for anything but a repeat.
It was one year ago yesterday, October 21nd, that
Santa Clarita entered one of its most intense fire battles. With gusty winds
and low humidity, that fateful Sunday afternoon cost Santa Clarita 22 homes,
and pushed emergency responders to their limits.
How it happened:
On Saturday night, October
20th 2007, the Ranch Fire sparked north of Castaic, off
of the I-5 and Templin Highway.
While the fire burned quickly due to the winds, it did not immediately require
evacuations. US Forest Service firefighters took the lead on the incident.
On Sunday morning, news of the wind-fueled fires in Malibu
took center stage, as homes were decimated. Many Santa Clarita firefighters and
Sheriff’s deputies were assigned to aid in that fight.
In a fateful few moments Sunday afternoon, a 10-year-old boy
playing with matches started the Buckweed Fire in Agua Dulce. The winds quickly
pushed the flames in a southwesterly direction, bringing the destruction to
Santa Clarita. The fire was moving too quickly for firefighters to fight
traditional battles. Instead, they went house to house, extinguishing open
flames as they saw them.
Meanwhile, the Ranch Fire in Castaic had grown to behemoth
status, and evacuations were being ordered for areas of Saugus,
Canyon Country and Castaic.
By Sunday night, the Buckweed Fire had scorched land along Sierra
Highway, Plum Canyon Rd
and Bouquet Canyon.
The latter saw perhaps the most severe damage, as a large section of Lombardi
Ranch was burned to the ground, along with the nearby ranch run by Heads Up
Therapy on Horseback. Heads Up volunteer Jim Tindell was severely burned trying
to escape the flames. Also under seige were the 100 residents of LARC Ranch,
who watched as their pool building and ranch house were claimed by the Buckweed
Fire. To make matters worse, the Vasquez
which serves as a key link between Saugus
and Canyon Country, was completely ruined by the flames.
Gusts of up to 70 mph carried engulfed embers onto homes off
of Camp Plenty Road, and
the North Oaks neighborhood.
Santa Clarita was in full emergency mode, and a command center
had been established at Central Park. Every school in
Santa Clarita was closed indefinitely, and many businesses did the same.
Monday morning, the fires continued to rage on. By this
time, fire crews had to shift resources to the Ranch Fire, as that fire was
threatening the neighborhoods of Hillcrest and Hasley Canyon Roads.
On Monday afternoon, sparks from a welding torch lit brush
near the Old Road and Magic
Mountain Parkway, sending a wall of flames up to
the Westridge Community. Fire crews dubbed it the Magic Fire, and were able to
save the homes in Westridge by deflecting the fire into rural land to the southwest.
That fire eventually burned nearly 2,000 acres before it was knocked down.
Monday night, flying embers from the Buckweed Fire created a
raging inferno at a mobile home park on Soledad Canyon
Road near Sand
Canyon. The 5-acre blaze destroyed
two mobile homes and at one point jumped the 14 freeway, where it was stopped
before it could reach the mouth of Sand
Canyon. It took fire crews six
hours to knock it down.
By Tuesday, the winds settled down just enough for fire
crews to make substantial progress. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the
burned areas, and complimented the fire fighting efforts of Los Angeles County
Fire along with US Forest Service, CalFire, LA
City Fire and a host of other agencies who came to Santa Clarita’s aid.
A local, state and federal disaster area was established in
By the time both fires were fully extinguished, the Buckweed
incident had charred 38,000 acres, destroying 21 homes and 22 outbuildings
while damaging 15 more homes and 23 outbuildings.
The Ranch Fire claimed one home and nine outbuildings,
damaging only two more outbuildings while gobbling up over 50,000 acres.
Since then, the Santa Clarita Valley Disaster Coalition has
been assisting those who lost property in the fires, providing clothing,
counseling and new home items.
Also, Habitat for Humanity has begun work to rebuild the
home of Donna
and Randy Relles, while Mark McMullen recently finished rebuilding his
Tindell, who was badly burned while escaping the Heads Up Therapy on
Horseback Ranch on Bouquet Canyon Rd,
spent 4 months at the Grossman Burn
Center, where he recovered from severe burns on
his face and hands. In June, Habitat for Humanity and the Southern California
Gas Company did some rehabilitation work on the Tindell family home to welcome
While he lost two fingers to the injury, he is still happily
volunteering for Heads Up Therapy on Horseback whenever he can. Heads Up has
moved to a new property off of Iron Canyon Road
and was able to resume therapy treatment in June.
LARC Ranch is coming off a successful fundraiser that should
help them begin to rebuild the facilities they lost to the Buckweed Fire.
Despite the progress made in the last year, no one affected
by the fires will be the same again. Just as every 14 year resident of Santa
Clarita can tell you exactly where they were during the 1994 earthquake, the
Buckweed, Ranch and Magic Fire victims will forever think twice every time the
wind picks up in October.
Reminder, a Red
Flag Warning is in effect through Friday.
Carol Rock contributed to this story.