LA-area fires force hundreds to flee

Posted at 8:15 AM, Jun 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-21 11:43:20-04
AZUSA -- About 330 firefighters Tuesday battled two brush fires that scorched more than 4,500 acres in the Angeles National Forest and foothills above Duarte and Azusa, while as many as 750 people evacuated because of the blazes remained out of their homes.
There was no containment as of 5 a.m. Tuesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Firefighters from both the county and USFS were battling the fires amid soaring temperatures and bone-dry conditions, the USFS said, adding that overnight crews were using aircraft water drops to quell the flames. The state's drought and scorching weather created burning conditions more typical of August, the agency said.
The initial fire, dubbed the Reservoir Fire, broke out shortly after 11 a.m. Monday off Highway 39 near the Morris Reservoir dam north of Azusa, according to Sherry Rollman of the USFS. It grew to 1,500 acres by 10 p.m. Monday, forest authorities said.
The fire was sparked by a vehicle running off the highway, as officials received a report at 10:57 a.m. Monday of a fatal car crash along Highway 39 near the reservoir where the fire broke out, California Highway Patrol Officer Alex Rubio said.
About 90 minutes after the Reservoir Fire began, a second blaze was reported near Opal Canyon and Brookridge roads near the Duarte/Azusa border, about four miles southwest of the Reservoir Fire.
That blaze, dubbed the Fish Fire, quickly roared into the foothills, burning north away from homes but threatening some remote horse stables. By 9 p.m. Monday, the flames had raced across more than 3,000 acres, also with no containment, according to a department official.
The two fires appeared to be burning toward each other, prompting fears that they would merge. There was about 1.5 miles of canyon area separating the blazes as of 8:30 p.m. Monday, a department official said.
One firefighter was taken to the hospital around 6 p.m. Monday with "minor injuries" related to heat exhaustion, and a sheriff's deputy suffered from similar injuries earlier in the afternoon, fire authorities said.
No other injuries were reported as of early this morning.
More than 750 residents were evacuated from their homes. Evacuation orders were issued in Azusa for the Mountain Cove, El Encanto and Rainbow Ranch areas, with an evacuation center established at Memorial Park, 320 N. Orange Ave. Voluntary evacuations were in effect for the Mirador and Crystal Canyon areas.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Duarte Mesa residents living above Markwood Street between Westvale Road and Tocino Drive, and above Conata between Tocino Drive and Mountain Crest Road. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued earlier for residents on Brookridge Road, with voluntary evacuations in effect for residents north of Fish Canyon Road from Greenbank Avenue to Encanto Parkway.
Monrovia residents whose homes are located north of Foothill Boulevard and east of Myrtle Avenue and Bradbury area were advised that evacuations could be implemented, sheriff's deputies said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies early Tuesday announced additional road closures linked to the fires. They are located at:
-- Mount Olive Drive at Royal Oaks Drive
-- Vineyard Avenue at Markwood Street
-- Woodbluff Street from Sunnydale Drive
-- Greenbank Avenue from Deerlane Drive
-- Conata Street at Bettyhill Avenue
-- Mel Canyon Road at Opal Canyon Road
-- Mountain Crest Road at Fish Canyon Road
-- Encanto parkway at Markwood Street
-- Mount Olive Drive at Woodlyn Lane; and
-- Mount Olive Drive at Elda Street.
The Red Cross established an evacuation center at the Duarte Community Center, located at 1600 Huntington Drive.
Smoke from both fires billowed into the air, creating a plume visible for miles, including from downtown Los Angeles.
Fish and game officials were on the scene in response to reports of bears fleeing the area, Fox11 reported.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory because of the blazes, urging residents in smoke-affected areas to avoid strenuous outdoor activity. Those with respiratory or heart disease, older adults and children were advised to remain indoors.