High winds spread two deadly and destructive wildfires in Southern California

National

Port Ranch, California (CBS NEWS)- Meteorologists are expecting a third day of high winds and extreme fire conditions Saturday in Southern California. The winds have already spread two deadly and destructive wildfires — one in the mountains north of Los Angeles and the other 70 miles east of the city.    

The largest blaze, the Saddle Ridge fire, has charred over 7,500 acres in a densely populated area just north of Los Angeles. It started Thursday night and as of Saturday morning was only 19 percent contained. 100,000 people had been ordered to evacuate, CBS News’ Errol Barnett reports.

The fire has scorched more than 7,500 acres in the Sylmar, Granda Hills and Porter Ranch area, CBS Los Angeles reports. One death is being blamed on the blaze, and it’s estimated that 31 structures have been destroyed or damaged.

A second death is being blamed on another blaze. In Calimesa, east of Los Angeles, investigators now know how that fire — the Sandalwood Fire — began: a trash truck dumped burning trash along a field of dry brush. The fire quickly spread and ravaged a mobile home park. At least 76 structures were destroyed.

Back at the Saddle Ridge fire, winds died down late Friday, giving local residents a moment to count their blessings.

“There are no words I can express because we’re still standing, our home is still here and it’s because of all these guys,” said Porter Ranch resident Arbella Mikhael.

Late Friday, city officials lifted mandatory evacuation orders for some nearby residents and offered to escort others back to their homes for five-minute visits. But they won’t be allowed to return permanently until the danger had passed.

“It’s not the fire itself but the danger of wind taking an ember, blowing it someplace, and seeing entire neighborhoods overnight get lit,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas said he flew over the fire Friday and saw “hundreds, if not thousands of homes” with charred backyards where firefighters had just managed to halt the flames.

“Be patient with us,” he urged evacuees. “We want to make sure you’re safe.”

About 450 police were deployed in the area, and Police Chief Michel Moore said there would be “no tolerance” for looters. 

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