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Southern California wildfire evacuees return to see what's left of homes

Jatin Bhasin lost his home in the Saddleridge Fire in Los Angeles County. Photo by Accuweather.com
Jatin Bhasin lost his home in the Saddleridge Fire in Los Angeles County. Photo by Accuweather.com

Oct. 13 (UPI) -- As California wildfires continue to turn everything in their path to char and ash, thousands of evacuees return home hopeful to see their house still standing.

Jatin Bhasin, a California resident who watched the flames near his home hoping it would remain unscathed wasn't one of the lucky ones. Bhasin recalls seeing the blaze rapidly approach his house as it engulfed one thing after another.

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"It was very far away, and within 30 minutes it was right behind the house," Bhasin said.

Santa Ana winds fanned the explosive growth of Saddleridge Fire in Southern California on Thursday.

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The fire ignited and grew exponentially in just amatter of hours in a densely populated area just north of Los Angeles. The firewas reportedly 150 acres at 2 p.m., PDT, but just two hours later, it had grown to 500 acres, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

"Within minutes the house was gone," Bhasin said.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys, fire in a forest can move as fast 6.7 mph and as fast as 14 mph in grasslands. The material the fire is encountering can help or hinder the speed of the fire; for example, very dry material acts as fuel for the fire and helps it spread even quicker.

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"We called the fire people and it took some time before they got here. The fire came so fast they could not take anything out, absolutely nothing, just dog and people ran out. They took the car out of the garage and that was it," Bhasin said.

The Saddleridge fire has consumed 7,965 acres, which included dozens of homes and buildings, as well as parts of two freeways. Containment is up to 41 percent as of Sunday morning, while four agencies fight to tame its growth.

On Friday, at least 1,000 firefighters and eight helicopters were battling the fire. At least 31 structures have been damaged or destroyed, but officials did not specify how many were homes.

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As of Saturday afternoon, all evacuations orders related to the Saddleridge Fire were lifted.

At least four more blazes continue to burn across the state of California, sparking an all-too-familiar feeling of uncertainty in some California residents.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency in Los Angeles County and Riverside County on Friday afternoon due to all of the wildfires.

Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 21,000 customers in an effort to reduce the risk of the windblown fires exploding in growth due to coming in contact with downed powerlines.

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The planned Public Safety Power Shutoff was smaller in scale than the one instituted by Pacific Gas & Electric in Northern California on Wednesday. About 13,000 PG&E customers remained without power on Saturday, out of the estimated 738,000 home and businesses that had electricity cut off earlier in the week.

On Friday, Newsom secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will help make resources more readily available to fight and recover from the Saddleridge Fire.

"We thank members of the community for promptly heeding the evacuation orders and their patience as we worked to contain the fire. As you repopulate the previously evacuated areas, we ask you to remain vigilant, and drive cautiously, as thereare still public safety personnel working in the area," the LAFD said in a statement.

The Ventura County Fire Department posted images of the Ridgeview Fire in Camarillo on Twitter. The half-acre fire had been contained on Saturday.