Antelope Valley is ablaze. In the last 24 hours, two fires have broken out only miles apart around the small Southern California city of Palmdale in the high desert of northeastern Los Angeles County. An unknown number of homes and structures have burned and hundreds more are in eminent danger as night and increased wind velocities approach.
At least five homes burned overnight in nearby Leona Valley, a small rural enclave of the larger valley. More than 2,000 other homes were evacuated with 1,500 in eminent danger, but many residents were allowed to return this morning.
Late this afternoon, however, the blaze jumped the California Aqueduct, which had been a firebreak between the ridge and 2,000 homes, threatening 300 dwellings in the massive Rancho Vista housing development of Palmdale. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up late this afternoon to evaluate one of the two blazes threatening large developed areas of the western Valley. KCAL News in Los Angeles reported seeing residents running for their cars late this afternoon as flames and thick smoke bore down on them within a few blocks of the Rancho Vista subdivision.
More than 1,000 homes are still evacuated at this hour. With only about 20 percent of the blaze contained, 10- to 20-mile-an-hour winds spiked again this afternoon and are expected to build to as high as 50 mph tonight. A second fire in nearby Agua Dulce Canyon, the Crown fire has burned 13,000 acres and an unreported number of structures. In the air Los Angeles County is employing water dropping helicopters and two jumbo jets, one DC-10 and one 747, to dump fire retardant and water on the separate blazes, only miles apart, in an effort to keep the two blazes from joining. The DC-10 and at least one other tanker are hitting the high ridges over the Valley with up to 12,000 gallons of fire retardant at a time, and the 747 and helicopters are dropping similar amounts of water, much of it from the aqueduct.
Near 100-degree temperatures and low humidity has hampered efforts to get the blazes under control.
One of the greatest concerns is the power transmission lines that provide electricity to much of Los Angeles County. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is asking residents to reduce energy use where possible. The lines also pose a threat to aircraft in the area if damaged.
The fire broke out in the San Gabriel Mountains near a highway that connects Los Angeles to the high desert, and was possibly caused by workers changing a tire rim.