Police ID arson suspect in 2,500-acre Ranch 2 Fire; blaze moves away from Azusa homes

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Arson investigators now believe the Ranch 2 Fire that scorched 1,500 acres in the Angeles National Forest above Azusa was intentionally set, and they identified a suspect in the blaze Friday night.

Osmin Palencia, 36, is wanted in connection with the fire, Azusa police said.

He was last known to live in the Azusa Canyon riverbed, near where the fire sparked at about 2:45 p.m. Thursday, investigators said.

Officials believe Palencia is violent and urged the public to use caution if they come into contact with him.

Anyone with information on Palencia’s whereabouts can contact Azusa police at 626-812-3200.

The so-called Ranch 2 Fire had burned about 2,500 acres and was 3% contained as of Friday night, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The brush fire was moving away from homes Friday morning, prompting officials to lift mandatory evacuations for the Mountain Cove neighborhood that was previously threatened by the flames.

Officials downgraded the blaze’s size by 500 acres Friday due to better visibility on the perimeter.

Fire activity had been expected to increase Friday afternoon amid the hot and dry weather conditions. But the blaze ultimately failed to gain much ground Friday.

Video late Thursday night showed the fire burning dangerously close to homes near Highwood Court and Mount Laurel Way, which had been placed under a mandatory evacuation order earlier in the day.

About 300 homes were threatened at the time.

Firefighters successfully kept the flames away from homes and say the blaze is moving north Friday morning toward an area previously burned in last month’s Dam Fire.  

All evacuation orders were lifted as of 11 p.m., according to a tweet from the Azusa Police Department.

Highway 39 will remain closed as emergency vehicles remain in the area to monitor the fire, the Police Department stated.

The fire was reported about 3 p.m. Thursday in a creek bed near the corner of San Gabriel Canyon and Ranch roads.

The U.S. Forest Service and Los Angeles County Fire Department are working together to fight the fire.

The blaze started as firefighters were already battling the 11,000-acre Lake Fire, also burning in the Angeles National Forest.

Firefighters are also dealing with a heat wave in the region that has Azusa expecting temperatures in the triple-digits Friday and Saturday.

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