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Early Fall Wildfires Hit Southern California

Wildfires were burning in the foothills and mountains of Southern California as fall began in 2013.

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A wildfire that quickly grew to 200 acres near the base of the Cajon Pass and prompted mandatory evacuations was 40 percent contained Wednesday, a day after it broke out.


A DC-10 dropped retardant on the Sierra Fire near the Cajon Pass on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013.

The Sierra Fire broke just before 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Sycamore Flats area along the 15 Freeway (map), authorities had said. It was burning in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The blaze was burning in steep, rugged terrain, consuming dry chaparral, according to the interagency site InciWeb.

Water-dropping helicopters and air tankers dropping retardant slowed the spread of the fire and prevented it from reaching homes along Glen Helen Road, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

At peak, about 400 firefighters were on scene, along with five helicopters and six air tankers, the Forest Service reported.

On Wednesday, firefighters were continuing to work on building lines around the fire. Gusty winds forecast for the rest of the week were causing concern, according to the Forest Service.

Full containment is expected Friday.

An evacuation center was set up at the Jessie Turner Center, 15556 Summit Ave. in Fontana. Animals may be taken to the Devore Animal Shelter, 19777 Shelter Way in San Bernardino.

A wildfire that quickly grew to 200 acres near the base of the Cajon Pass prompted mandatory evacuations Tuesday, authorities said.


A helicopter can be seen battling the Sierra Fire near Devore in a shot from Sky5 on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013.

The fire was burning near Glen Helen along the northbound 15 Freeway (map), according to tweets from the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

The department said mandatory evacuations were ordered for Glen Helen Road between the 15 Freeway and Swarthout Canyon Road.

The mandatory evacuations will be changed to voluntary at midnight tonight.

Structure defense will remain in place, the department said.

The fire was reported at 3:51 p.m. was spreading at a “moderate to rapid rate,” according to a post about the fire on the interagency site InciWeb.

About 200 firefighters were working the blaze in 85-degree heat and winds of about 18 mph, the post stated.

Aerial video showed multiple helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft battling the flames, which were growing in mountainous terrain at the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest.

An evacuation center was set up at Jessie Turner Health & Fitness Center at 15556 Summit Ave. in Fontana. Small animals were being accepted at the Devore Animal Shelter, according to the county fire department’s tweet.


The Sierra Fire was burning in dry chaparral. (credit: InciWeb)

Meanwhile Tuesday, firefighters working about 35 miles to the west continued to work to contain the 250-acre Madre Fire in the San Gabriel Mountains above Azusa.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Firefighters on Tuesday continued to battle a fire that had burned 250 acres  and threatened homes north of Azusa, authorities said.


Crews made good progress on the Madre Fire Tuesday, authorities said. (credit: Angeles National Forest)

The so-called Madre Fire was 70 percent contained by Tuesday afternoon, according to a tweet from the U.S. Forest Service. The fire started about 6 p.m. Monday in the Angeles National Forest above Azusa.

Two firefighters received minor injuries, according to a tweet from the department.

The blaze briefly threatened 25 homes in the Mountain Cove neighborhood where evacuations were in effect, county fire officials said. Three of the homes in the community were under mandatory evacuation orders, while the rest were under a voluntary order, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Jaime Moore.

Mountain Cove residents said they had packed valuables and were prepared to leave if necessary.

“It was kind of harrowing last night,” said Mountain Cove resident Andrea Cunningham. “I saw the whole hill ablaze.”

About 200 firefighters were working the blaze, along with 13 helicopters, Moore said just before 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“The firefighters have done a really amazing job,” Cunninham said.

Firefighters were working in conditions where winds were about 12 mph with gusts of up to 20 mph, Moore said. The blaze had been moving away from homes, fire officials had said earlier Tuesday, but the wind could change the fire’s direction later in the day, Moore said.

A smoke advisory was issued for the region by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which said air quality could be unhealthy in portions of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, and the eastern and parts of the western San Gabriel Valley.


Smoke continued to rise from the Madre Fire in the Angeles National Forest Tuesday morning.

Eighteen schools were ordered to keep children inside Tuesday, according to the Azusa Unified School District. And the Glendora High School football team practiced indoors on Tuesday afternoon.

State Route 39, also knowns as San Gabriel Canyon Road, was open to residents only above Sierra Madre Avenue, according to the Forest Service.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, the Forest Service said. Full containment was expected by Friday.

A brush fire was threatening structures as it burned in the mountains above Azusa on Monday evening, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

At 7:30 p.m. voluntary evacuation orders were issued for three homes on Foxtail Court in the Mountain Cove neighborhood.

Twenty-five other homes are under structure protection, according to county fire officials.

The blaze was sending a column of smoke towering above the San Gabriel Valley, photos posted to Twitter showed.


An image from Sky5 showed the fire spreading uphill.

The fire was burning east toward the Azusa border with Glendora in the San Gabriel Mountains, the city of Duarte tweeted. The area is surrounded by the Angeles National Forest.

County firefighters received the call at 5:52 p.m., according to county fire Inspector Ed Pickett. The fire was reported near the intersection of Azusa and Sierra Madre avenues (map), he said.

Dubbed the Madre Fire, the incident had grown to 190 acres as of 10:50 p.m.

The Madre Fire was being driven by fuel — the dry brush and chaparral of early fall — and the mountainous topography, the county fire spokesman tweeted.

Structures were threatened, Pickett said, but it was unknown how many. Aerial video showed the blaze burning near homes off San Gabriel Canyon Road, also known as State Highway 39.


This image, taken from Highway 39 about 6:20 p.m., shows the fire burning above Azusa. (credit: Briann Franco)

The highway was closed north of Foothill Boulevard except for emergency vehicles.

There are also a number of road closures in effect in the Duarte area because of the fire, according to the Temple City Sheriff’s Station.

Huntington Drive is closed at Encanto Parkway.  All residential streets that intersect with Encanto Parkway north of Huntington Drive into Fish Canyon have also been closed.

In addition, Encanto Park has been closed and is being used as a staging area for water dropping helicopters.