With Tick fire 25% contained, many still under evacuation

As firefighters continued to make progress against the Tick fire in Santa Clarita, officials said Saturday that human remains were discovered in the charred path of the fire but that they were not related to the blaze.

A public works employee was combing the burn area near Sand Canyon Road and Thompson Ranch Drive about 11:30 a.m. when the remains were found, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy James Nagao. Authorities quickly determined that the death was not caused by the fire. The skeletal remains had been hidden in the canyon for at least a year.

“The fire burned away the vegetation that was concealing the bones,” Sheriff’s Deputy Morgan Arteaga said.

The identity of the victim is unknown, and officials are investigating the cause of death.

The winds that fanned the Tick fire in Santa Clarita calmed Saturday, allowing firefighters to expand containment of the destructive blaze and some residents to return home.

The fire, which has consumed more than 4,600 acres and left 18 structures destroyed and 16 damaged, is 55% contained, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said. About 925 firefighters remain on the scene to get an upper hand on the fire before Santa Ana winds kick up again.

“Westerly wind shifts pose a challenge for our firefighters as they may change the potential for rekindle scenarios,” sheriff’s officials said in a statement.

Humidity is expected to drop as night falls, zapping the moisture out of the air, National Weather Service meteorologist Keily Delerme said.

Those drier conditions coupled with expected winds ranging from 20 to 35 mph and gusts up to 50 mph in Santa Clarita could create conditions ripe for the spread of wildfires, the National Weather Service said. The area will be under a fire weather watch.

At the height of the blaze, about 40,000 residents were ordered to evacuate. Many have been allowed to return home. But mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect for Tick Canyon Road from Abelia Road to Summit Knoll Road, and areas east of Sand Canyon Road, south of Sierra Highway to Soledad Canyon Road.

The fire erupted Thursday before 1:45 p.m. along Tick Canyon Road. The winds picked up in the wee hours of Friday morning, causing the fire to breach the 14 Freeway between Sand Canyon and Agua Dulce, burning an additional 700 to 800 acres.

Severe fire and wind conditions prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency for Los Angeles and for Sonoma County, which is grappling with the massive Kincade fire. Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn also declared a local emergency for the county Friday.

Images circulating on social media show homes without roofs, the burned contents exposed for all to see. Neighbors stood in one yard taking in the devastation. Hand-painted signs show hearts and heartfelt messages.

“You are not alone,” says one.

“#SequoiaStrong” says another.

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire. Officials issued a warning to residents to guard themselves against potential hazards such as fire ash, damaged utility lines, and exposed and burnt-out structures. The Los Angeles County Fire Department is advising people to wear protective gear such as N-95 face masks, gloves, boots and ear protection.

About 400 miles away in Northern California, the Kincade fire rages on, chewing through 25,000 acres at 10% containment.

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