2 people confirmed killed in Southern California wildfires as thousands of evacuees return home

Firefighters in Southern California are working around-the-clock to contain fast-moving wildfires. CNN's Paul Vercammen spoke with Granada Hills, California, resident Eyad Jarjour, who said neighbors alerted him to the looming Saddleridge Fire.

Posted: Oct 13, 2019 9:20 AM
Updated: Oct 13, 2019 9:20 AM

Two people have been killed in wildfires in Southern California, authorities said Saturday. As firefighters continued to battle multiple blazes in the region, tens of thousands of evacuees were cleared to return home.

The Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa, some 70 miles east of Los Angeles, has killed an 89-year-old woman in a mobile home, and another person who has not yet been identified, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said.

The fire, which started as a trash fire that spread to vegetation, has destroyed at least 90 structures since it began Thursday, fire officials said. It has burned more than 820 acres and was at least 25% contained as of Saturday.

In Los Angeles, all evacuation orders were lifted Saturday after the Saddleridge Fire -- the largest of the fires currently burning in Southern California -- moved away from neighborhoods and into hillsides.

The blaze remained 19% contained as the strong Santa Ana winds appeared to have given firefighters a break on Saturday.

The fire has destroyed 31 homes and burned more than 7,500 acres, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

As tens of thousands of evacuees returned, Monica Silver and her family found their home completely charred. Her friends started fundraising to help them and her children's teachers offered to buy backpacks and school books.

"We feel loved, we feel very loved," Silver said.

Firefighters were planning to continue using air tanks to ensure the fire does not breach containment lines on Saturday, the fire department said.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District was telling residents to protect themselves from heavy smoke and unhealthy air conditions.

Strangers rescued 40 horses trapped in a burning ranch

When a ranch worker reached out for help on social media, friends and strangers helped him bring dozens of horses to safety.

Forty horses were nervously running back and forth on Friday as flames and smoke surrounded the Saddletree Ranch Equestrian Center in Sylmar.

The flames were spreading rapidly as Alejo Morales, a worker at the ranch, and his colleagues were scrambling to evacuate the horses, so he posted a message on social media asking for help.

"We had a lot of friends that came through and helped us," Morales told CNN affiliate KCAL. "We started getting phone calls and (more) phone calls, and people just started piling up and getting the horses (out)."

Friends and strangers rushed over with trailers and shuttled the horses to safety. The equestrian center lost several thousand dollars' worth of property but the horses and ranch workers made it unscathed.

"We want to thank the whole community for helping us out," another worker, Horacio Diaz told KCAL. "They really came through for us."

Other fires in the region

The Saddleridge and Sandalwood fires are only a few of the many fires burning in Southern California.

Less than 20 miles away in Moreno Valley, the Reche Fire has burned at least 350 acres and was 85% contained. The fire went from 100 to 200 acres in about 90 minutes, before nearly doubling two hours later. Mandatory evacuations have been issued in surrounding areas, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Some residents have been allowed back in or near their homes, but city officials said the danger is not over.

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