Environment & Science

Sand Fire: 93 percent contained, crews restoring power to burn areas

Sun., July 24, 2016: An image of the Sand Fire burning near Santa Clarita.
Sun., July 24, 2016: An image of the Sand Fire burning near Santa Clarita.
Photograph by Emily Guerin

With the Sand Fire 93 percent contained, the focus has shifted to the damage. At least 18 residences and 250 power poles were destroyed by the fire, which began burning on Friday, July 22.

It burned more than 40,000 acres in the mountainous area near Santa Clarita, forcing 20,000 people to evacuate their homes.

As of Sunday, firefighters continue to patrol the fireline, mopping up hot spots. Hot spots are scattered only along the southeast side but many pockets of unburned vegetation remain within the perimeter and will continue to burn for several days or even weeks. Although strong gusty winds tested containment lines Saturday, they held.

Downed power lines crisscrossing all 60 square miles of the burn area remain a major problem.

Troy Whitman, a Fire Management Officer with SoCal Edison for more than two decades, tells KPCC crews have been working hard this week, replacing power poles.

"The terrain is very steep and rocky — a lot of the poles are hard to access because they're at the top of ridge lines. The heat is difficult to work in, it's 102 degrees out there today and the humidity is picking up. There's snakes. There's all kinds of critters out there that got displaced. Bees that really can become a nuisance."

A stretch of Metrolink's commuter rail along the Antelope Valley Line that had been closed because of the fire was reopened Thursday, although speed limits between stations affected by the fire could cause 15-minute delays.

Acting Gov. Tom Torlakson, substituting for Gov. Jerry Brown who is at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, declared a state of emergency for both fires. The move frees up funding and relaxes regulations to help with the firefight and recovery.