Arson may have caused a brush fire that burned an estimated 200 acres after it broke out Sunday in a riverbed around the Montebello Hills, sending up a giant plume of black smoke visible from throughout the Los Angeles area.

Parts of the nearby Pomona (60) freeway were closed to traffic, creating driving nightmares for motorists expecting no delays on a Sunday evening.

A 44-year-old man was taken into custody, but no further details about the suspect were immediately available.

SuperScoopers and bulldozers were called in to battle the so-called Lincoln Fire that was reported about 1:30 p.m. in the Rio Hondo riverbed near the Whittier Narrows Reservoir, Montebello Fire Department Deputy Chief Dan Amador told City News Service.

The blaze jumped roads and threatened oil fields and structures in the area, though none burned, Amador said.

A huge plume of black smoke was visible from across Los Angeles and Orange counties, as heavy brush burned just southwest of the interchange of the Pomona (60) and San Gabriel Valley (605) freeways.

One Montebello firefighter who suffered heat exhaustion was taken to a hospital and a county firefighter sustained a shoulder injury, Amador said.

A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter made a hard landing at Rose Hills Cemetery due to a mechanical problem, Amador said.

All crew members on board were OK, according to the department’s Twitter account.

Some structures were threatened, but crews managed to protect them, Amador said.

The portion of the fire in Montebello was largely knocked down by about 5:15 p.m. with about 50 acres burned, Amador said.

Including a portion of the fire burning in an unincorporated area north of the point of origin, about 200 acres have burned, according to Amador and a county fire department dispatch supervisor.

The blaze was about 20 percent contained tonight, they said.

Amador said arson is suspected as the cause and a 44-year-old man had been taken into custody.

Asked if the man was a transient who had been living in the area, Amador said, “He may well be, but I have no confirmation of that.”

Two recently-arrived SuperScooper water-dropping aircraft leased to the county from the Province of Quebec assisted brushfire strike teams battling the fire.

The fixed-wing planes were skimming water from the lake at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, according to Irwindale police.

Crews would be on scene throughout the night, Amador said, adding that more than 100 firefighters battled the Montebello Hills portion of the fire with still more in on scene in the county area.

Firefighters from departments in Monterey Park, Monrovia, Arcadia, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Glendale and San Gabriel were assisting in the firefight, according to a report from the scene.

Some area homes were subject to voluntary evacuations.

The fire closed stretches of Lincoln Avenue, San Gabriel and Rosemead boulevards and Durfee Avenue, according to Montebello police and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The eastbound Pomona Freeway was closed at San Gabriel Boulevard as of 5 p.m. but reopened about 8:30 p.m.. according to the California Highway Patrol.

The freeway’s Rosemead Boulevard off-ramps remained closed, however, the CHP reported.

— City News Service

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