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Governor declares emergency as LA wildfire rages

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Firefighters are battling a 5,900-acre brush fire that broke out Friday in the Verdugo Mountains, which was only 10 percent contained as of Sunday. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
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LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Jerry Brown Sunday declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County as firefighters continued to battle a 5,900-acre brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains north of downtown Los Angeles that destroyed three homes and closed a stretch of the 210 Freeway.

The governor’s declaration will ensure state and federal assistance will be provided as quickly as possible. It came at the urging of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said the fire is the largest in the city’s history in terms of acreage.

Fire officials said lower temperatures and calmer winds Sunday should help firefighters tame the La Tuna fire, but warned that favorable weather conditions could change quickly.

“The biggest challenge and risk is the wind,” Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.

Firefighters were hoping for some relief from a heat wave that has gripped much of the state for days. Temperatures were expected to fall somewhat Sunday to 90 to 94 degrees, with a chance of some showers and lightning, as monsoonal moisture from Tropical Storm Linda moves into the region. Winds were expected to blow 3 to 8 mph, with gusts of up to 12 mph.

“That can change in a moment’s notice and the wind can accelerate very quickly,” Terrazas said.

Scattered rainfall was expected throughout the region.

The fire destroyed three homes in Tujunga at the end of an isolated road. Two firefighters were taken to hospitals Saturday for dehydration, according to the L.A. Fire Department.

On Sunday afternoon, Tujunga resident Frankie Fronk, 46, sat on an easy chair in front of his single-story ranch style house, staring up at the recently burned ridgeline. He was looking for puffs of smoke, any sign of a flare up.

And he’s seen a few.

Fronk said he was ordered to leave his home Saturday about 2:30 p.m. He and his wife grabbed a few mementos and their dog, and started calling around for a hotel. After checking about 10 different places, charging between $200 and $300, he finally found a place in Burbank for $135. But he returned home Sunday morning.

Fronk said that the fire later kicked up in the neighborhood, with the wind driving flames into a home up the street on Glenties Way.

The fire was only 10 percent contained Sunday, officials said.

The fire broke out Friday, with shifting winds sending flames in several directions. Fire crews confronted the same erratic conditions Saturday.

Terrazas said the number of people fighting the fire to more than 1,000 firefighters Sunday. The chief said they hope to fully contain the fire in three to four days. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but officials said there is no evidence of arson.

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