Lake Fire grows to 11,000 acres in Angeles National Forest; crews try to tame wildfire as heat wave arrives

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LOS ANGELES (NewsNation/KTLA) — Fire crews continued to battle a fast-moving brush fire in the Lake Hughes area of the Angeles National Forest area, prompting evacuations north of Los Angeles and destroying at least three structures in the Angeles National Forest.

The blaze, dubbed the Lake Fire, had scorched 11,000 acres and was 5% contained as of 7 p.m. PST Thursday, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s incident information website.

That’s a gain of 500 acres over the course of the day, as well as an increase in containment, which had been at 0% Wednesday morning.

By Thursday night, the blaze still threatened more than 5,400 homes and had charged through 17 square miles of brush and forest land.

Crews saw several flareups overnight and remain concerned about how the firefight will go as temperatures increase through the weekend.

Light winds and scattered thundershowers early in the day helped firefighters tame the flames somewhat but Friday’s forecast called for hot, dry weather with “near critical” fire conditions because of possible gusty winds, a fire update said Thursday night.

“This will be a major fire for several days,” U.S. Forest Service Fire Chief Robert Garcia said during a morning news conference.

Cooler overnight conditions allowed crews to develop some remote anchor points and hopefully gain a little control of the fire, Garcia said.

“Some tremendous work was done last night and overnight … it was a tremendous firefight to protect life and property,” Garcia said.

A federal incident management team is on its way to assist with planning the firefight, Garcia said.

About 100 rural homes were evacuated in the Lake Hughes area of the Angeles National Forest, some 60 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

Preliminary damage assessments found that at least three structures burned, but authorities warned the toll would likely be higher.

On Wednesday, the blaze quickly spread through a remote area covered in dry brush.

“The biggest issue probably here is that the vegetation in the area that the fire is burning hasn’t burned for decades, and it’s very thick and dense,” one fire official said.

A NewsNation affiliate KTLA news van drove through an area scorched by the fire Wednesday night and found one home burning. An American Flag, untouched by the flames, was still standing in front of the home. The camera crew also came across downed power lines and several vehicles that had been burned.

A home burning in the Lake Fire is seen from a KTLA news van as it travels through the Angeles National Forest on Aug. 12, 2020. (KTLA)

“We know that we lost several structures last night,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby said during the news conference. Some of the destroyed structures were in the Pine Canyon area, he said. Officials were still out in the field trying to determine the exact count, Osby said.

In a Thursday morning update released by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, authorities said three structures have been destroyed so far with more than 5,400 still threatened.

The Lake Fire was originally reported near Lake Hughes and Pine Canyon roads at around 3:40 p.m. Wednesday.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Ronald Shaffer listed the following mandatory evacuation boundaries during the morning news conference:

  • East of Ridge Route Road
  • West of Lake Hughes Road
  • North of Pine Canyon Road and Lake Hughes Road
  • South of Highway 138

National Weather Service officials said the blaze was growing at an “extreme rate in steep terrain.” It was first reported at 50 acres and rapidly grew in size.

Aerial video provided by the Los Angeles County Fire Department showed a large plume of thick smoke in the area.

Smoke from the Lake Fire could be seen as far as Venice Beach, a photo from Los Angeles County lifeguards showed.

More than 1,000 firefighters from the Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles County and cooperating agencies are battling the blaze, along with three helicopters and five water tenders.

The cause of the fire is still unknown unknown.

This is a developing story; check back for updates.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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