Hill Fire: 1,600-acre blaze destroys 3 homes


SANTA MARGARITA — For the second year in a row, the local wildfire season started with a devastating fire in the Parkhill area, just east of Santa Margarita, burning three homes, including that of Johnny Galecki, one of the stars of the NBC sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

According to Cal Fire spokesperson Chris Elms, the fire was holding at 15,085 acres Thursday morning and was 85 percent contained. Elms also confirmed that three homes had been destroyed by the fire.

“Our damage assessment team is still going out today just to basically go through every neighborhood and work on determining if there were any other damages to structures as a result of the fire, but they did confirm that there were three structures lost,” Elms said.

There were no reports of injuries during the incident and although at least one news outlet reported that homeowners had lost animals in the fire, Elms said that Cal Fire had not been able to confirm the reports.

“We have not had any homeowners tell us that they’ve lost anything as far as animals go,” he said.

Celebrity news website TMZ reported Tuesday that the fire destroyed Galecki’s vacation home Monday night.

“My heart goes out to all in in the area who are also experiencing loss from this vicious fire, the threat of which we live with constantly, which may seem crazy to some but we do so because living in our beautiful, rural area makes it worthwhile,” Galecki said in an interview with TMZ. “It’s never the structures that create a community — it’s the people. And if the people of Santa Margarita have taught me anything, it’s that once the smoke has cleared, literally and figuratively, it’s a time to reach out and rebuild. We’ve done it before and will need to do it together again. And it will make our community even closer and stronger. Endless thanks to Cal Fire and the Sheriff’s office. I know you guys are fighting the good fight to keep us safe. So very relieved that no one has been hurt.”

The fire started around 3:30 p.m. Monday as temperatures neared 100 degrees and a steady wind blew out of the west, not ideal conditions for firefighting operations. Luckily, the weather shifted around midnight Monday, with rising humidity and cooling temperatures.

“We saw that as our opportunity, so we went to town on it and we’ve definitely taken advantage of that over the last two days,” Elms said.

Elms said that Cal Fire officials were expecting another shift in the weather Thursday with another couple of warm, dry days in the forecast.

“This is kind of the weather test, if you will,” Elms said. “But at the moment I think we’re feeling pretty good that we’ve got this thing to the point where it shouldn’t cause an issue even with the weather change. I think the goal at this point is some time Friday to get full containment on this thing.”

Elms confirmed that all evacuation orders have been lifted, all roads have been reopened to residents and the fire is no longer threatening any structures, but reminded residents that firefighters will still be conducting operations in the area.

“So just be cautious and aware that we are still out there and please drive safe through the area,” he said.

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