Strong winds, steep terrain hamper crews battling Los Angeles area’s first major fire of the year

GORMAN, California — Strong winds pushed the flames through dry brush in the mountains along Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles on Sunday, and officials warned residents in the wildfire’s path to be prepared to leave if it exploded in size again.

Los Angeles County’s first major wildfire of the year quickly grew to nearly 40 square miles, a day after it forced the evacuation of at least 1,200 campers, all-terrain vehicles and hikers from the Hungry Valley Recreation Area.

The fire, also called the Post Fire, was only 2% contained on Sunday evening. No injuries have been reported. The cause was investigated.

Firefighters working in sweltering conditions and steep terrain rushed to extinguish local fires that broke out when unpredictable winds blew embers in front of the flames, said Kenichi Haskett, department chief of the LA County Fire Department. The gusts also hampered aircrews’ efforts to drop water and fire retardant, he said.

“When the wind blows, it sprays water everywhere we don’t need it. So that’s a challenge,” Haskett said.

Meanwhile, a small wildfire in Northern California prompted evacuation orders and warnings for a sparsely populated area near Lake Sonoma on Sunday. The so-called Point Fire produced a huge plume of dark smoke as it swept through brush and timber about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of San Francisco. It was 15% contained.

The Southern California fire broke out Saturday afternoon near I-5 in Gorman, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Two buildings burned down in the evacuated recreation area.

The flames moved toward Pyramid Lake, a popular destination for boaters that was closed as a precaution on Father’s Day. No homes were threatened Sunday, but officials warned residents of Castaic, home to about 19,000 people, to prepare to leave if the fire moves further south.

“If you are in a warning area, be prepared with a ‘go bag’, with nightwear and your cell phone, your medicine, your glasses. Get your car fueled up,” Haskett said. “Be ready to evacuate.”

Low humidity and wind gusts around 50 mph were expected all day, and winds could increase after sunset, the National Weather Service office for Los Angeles warned.

About 75 miles to the east, the nearly 3-square-mile Hesperia Fire forced road closures and prompted evacuation warnings after the blaze broke out Saturday near mountain communities in San Bernardino County. The fire was 20% under control on Sunday evening.


Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and radio reporter Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report.