Crews are battling a brush fire along the 5 Freeway at Lake Hughes Road near Castaic.
The Route Fire, which began around noon Wednesday was mapped at 5,208 acres as of Thursday morning, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, but the blaze was 12% contained.
Around 250 firefighters with Los Angeles County Fire Department were on hand to assist in battling the blaze, along with 115 U.S. Forest Services firefighters and more than a dozen different water-dropping aircraft, including eight tankers and seven helicopters.
The flames were assisted by a “pretty strong southwest wind pushing the fire,” which pushed it over I-5 and further north into heavier fuels, which contributed to the heavy smoke, according to Los Angeles County Fire Deputy Chief Tom Ewald.
Three night-vision enabled helicopters, each capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons, were expected to work through the night and continue making fire retardant drops to reinforce lines already dropped by aircraft earlier Wednesday.
I-5 Freeway was severely impacted by the firefighting effort, as traffic heading in both directions was completely blocked. Southbound lanes were stopped at Vista Del Lago, while northbound traffic was stopped at Lake Hughes Road. The northbound lanes were reopened early Thursday morning, and two southbound lanes were opened up to traffic through the area.
Northlake Hills Elementary School staff and students were told to shelter in place until they were evacuated by deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley station at 5 p.m.
At around 4 p.m., mandatory evacuation orders were issued for residents of Paradise Ranch Mobile Estates and those south of Templin Highway along Upper Ridge Route Road. Additional evacuations were ordered for all structures north of Lake Hughes Road, and east of the 5 Freeway at around 6:30 p.m.
Orders were lifted at 8:50 p.m. for structures north of Lake Hughes Road, east of I-5, west of Castaic Lagoon, and south of Northlake Hills Elementary School.
Eight firefighters were injured as they battled the wildfire, six of which were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment on minor heat-related injuries, according to LA County Fire Captain Sheila Kelliher Berkoh.
Evacuation centers were available for those impacted by the wildfire at Frazier Mountain High School, located on 700 Falcon Way in Lebec.
Pet owners were also able to leave their pets at Castaic Animal Shelter on 31044 North Charlie Canyon Road.
Angeles National Forest Service Battalion Chief and PIO Seneca Smith said Southern Californians should be extremely aware of their actions as extremely high fire conditions, paired with a persisting heat wave, increase the likelihood for wildfires.
“With this heat wave, it’s very hot and dry. We saw how quickly a small ignition can ignite and spread very rapidly,” she said. “The Angeles National Forest moved from ‘high’ to ‘very high’ fire danger about two weeks ago, and there’s good reason for that. So, just be very, very cognizant if you’re out there recreating, traveling, using the public lands, be very, very mindful of your actions and the potential for ignition to unfortunately get to this level.”
Deputy Chief Ewald echoed the sentiment, warning that “this is probably not the only fire we’re going to see in LA County over the next week or so,” as the sweltering heat wave is expected to continue through Labor Day Weekend.
Firefighters are also battling the Gulch Fire, burning in the Angeles National Forest near San Gabriel Dam, which had burned over 100 acres since ignition on Tuesday afternoon.