SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — A fast-moving brush fire erupted near a huge amusement and water park in Southern California on Sunday, setting off panic and confusion as park visitors were first told to evacuate as smoke surrounded the area before fire officials asked them to stay put while they worked to contain the blaze.
Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor announced the evacuation shortly after noon, citing concern for the safety of park visitors and employees. About 40 minutes later, the park north of Los Angeles said on its Twitter account that fire officials asked guests to stay inside due to nearby road closures.
Park visitors were asked to move to the back of the 260-acre property, away from firefighting activity near the entrance, said Rachel Gallat, who was visiting a friend who works at the park.
“I was getting iced coffee and when I walked outside, ash was raining down on me,” Gallat said. “There was a big cloud of smoke. I saw people around me panicking; they didn’t know where they were supposed to go.”
A Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatcher told the Los Angeles Times the park voluntarily evacuated visitors.
Shalane Gonzales, 34, said she saw people running out of the park in bathing suits.
“It was pretty scary. We saw trucks packing people,” Gonzales said. “They were just telling people to load up on their truck beds.”
She said when she tried to drive to the entrance to pick up her partner and their young sons, police told her to return to the parking lot.
“The fire was feet away from where we were,” she said.
Firefighters were battling the approximately 30-acre fire amid hot, dry and windy conditions. The cause of the fire is under investigation.