The Heat Is Online

California Wildfire Forces 1,000 People from their Homes

Battle against Calif. fire enters 4th day


Most of the 1,000-plus residents who had evacuated are allowed to return


The Associated Press, April. 29, 2008


SIERRA MADRE, Calif. - Firefighters battling a stubborn wildfire northeast of Los Angeles were expecting help Tuesday from cooler temperatures and calmer winds.


As the dramatic blaze entered its fourth day, most of the more than 1,000 people evacuated from their homes at the foot of the rugged San Gabriel Mountains have been allowed to return. On Tuesday, public schools in the community of about 11,000 residents were scheduled to reopen.


The 538-acre blaze burned dangerously close to homes early Monday, but firefighters stood their ground and turned the flames back. No homes have been lost in the blaze in the foothill suburb of Sierra Madre, 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The fire was 21 percent contained Monday.


Nearly 700 firefighters


Helicopters and airplanes bombarded the fire with water and retardant drops Monday while firefighters labored in temperatures in the 90s. Nearly 700 firefighters were on the lines.


Temperatures were expected to reach the mid 70s Tuesday, with high humidity and little wind.


Four firefighters had minor injuries -- a bee sting, a strained knee, and two cases of heat exhaustion, authorities said. A small outbuilding was destroyed.


The cause of the blaze remained under investigation.


The fire broke out Saturday afternoon in a popular hiking area as unseasonable extreme heat and low humidity set in over Southern California. By late that night it was a bright orange line descending like slow-moving lava down the steep mountainside, triggering evacuations along the interface between the city and wilderness.


Water drops


On Sunday, helicopters made water drops on a steep ridge above Sierra Madre near Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park. A fixed-wing water tanker also dropped flame retardant.


The blaze had been creeping northwest into the Angeles National Forest, Battalion Chief Tim Davis of the Forest Service said Sunday.

Its very steep, inaccessible terrain, and its very heavy brush, Davis said at a news conference. Very difficult and arduous labor for these crews. You cant get bulldozers into the majority of where these fingers of fire run.


Wedding party airlifted out

The blaze stranded 50 wedding party guests at a ranger station from Saturday until they were airlifted out by helicopter Sunday afternoon. It took five helicopter trips from the rangers station to the parking area where the wedding partys cars were. The party then was escorted out by road.


Investigators had not yet determined the cause of the fire.

Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, authorities said.

Late last year, strong winds, high temperatures and parched brush after a record drought were blamed for spreading a series of blazes from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border that destroyed thousands of buildings and drove hundreds of thousands of Californians from their homes.


© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.