Mountain Firefight Continues: ‘It’s Steep, It’s Rugged, It’s Nasty’

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For a second day on Friday, firefighters battled a wildfire burning in the San Gabriel Mountains that had grown to 1,863 acres after destroying homes, injuring three people and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.


Firefighters continued to work on the Colby Fire as smoke rose above Azusa on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: KTLA)

Roughly 300 houses in the Mountain Cove community of Azusa remained under a mandatory evacuation order, though some residents were allowed to return to their homes Friday afternoon, Azusa police Lt. Paul Dennis said.

Residents of Mountain Cove were ordered to remain evacuated until at least Saturday morning when the fire threat would be re-evaluated, police tweeted late Friday.

Fire activity continued around Highway 39, also known as San Gabriel Canyon Road, Dennis said, making it unsafe for residents to return.

“It’s been a trying 36 hours that we’ve endured this,” he said.

The blaze was burning in the Angeles National Forest, about 25 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, spreading smoky air across much of Southern California. Two firefighters and one resident had sustained minor injuries on Thursday.

Fire officials said they hoped to make progress on the fire as “summer-like” temperatures dropped Friday night and early Saturday morning. The blaze remained 30 percent contained, authorities said at a 5 p.m. news conference.

“It’s steep, it’s rugged, it’s nasty out there. It’s going to take some time,” said Marc Peebles, a spokesman for the unified command team in charge of the firefight.

Vegetation that was burning hadn’t seen fire since the 1960s, officials said.

Colby Fire: Crews Continue to Fight Hot Sports

The fire had burned dramatically overnight. (Credit: KTLA)

Firefighters made progress on the rugged north side of the fire, where aircraft had dropped retardant and water on Friday, according to Mike Wakoski with Incident Management Team 3.

“Things are looking good on the fire. It’s not moving like it sure did yesterday,” Wakoski said.

The firefight was expected to last four to five days, Peebles said.

The Colby Fire broke out in the foothills above Glendora just before 6 a.m. Thursday and quickly spread, burning five homes and damaging 17 other structures, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Thousands of Glendora residents were subject to a mandatory evacuation order that was lifted Thursday evening, when the fire was spreading west toward neighboring Azusa.

Azusa residents who live north of Sierra Madre Avenue between Yucca Ridge Road and Ranch Road — including the Mirador and Crystal Canyon communities — were allowed back to their homes at 4 p.m. Friday, authorities said.


The Mountain Cove community of Azusa remained under an evacuation order Friday. (Credit: KTLA)

Mountain Cove remained evacuated because firefighters were still working there, and there was “still concern for the roadway and homes in that area,” a police news release stated.

Only one evacuation center remained open Friday — the American Red Cross center at Glendora High School, 1600 N. Foothill Blvd., Glendora.

Three suspects who were arrested Thursday after allegedly letting their campfire spread out of control will face federal charges, Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said Friday.

The suspects had been identified as Clifford Eugene Henry, Jr., 22, of Glendora; Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 23, of Irwindale; and Steven Aguirre, 21, a homeless man from Los Angeles. They were being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said no charges would be filed by the end of the day Friday.

The fire began amid a red flag warning that was in effect for much of the L.A. area due to gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity. The warning, which was initially set to expire at 6 p.m. Friday, has been extended to 6 p.m. Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

View Colby Fire in a larger map

KTLA’s Tracy Bloom and Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.
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