The arson-caused Ranch2 Fire, which has scorched 4,237 acres near Azusa in the past week, was 38% contained Thursday, authorities said.
Crews coping with excessive heat had success Wednesday and into the early morning hours Thursday, and kept the fire from burning additional acres, reinforcing the northern and eastern flanks. Fire officials said they’re growing more confident each day that the lower edges of the fire near communities has grown cold.
“In spite of rugged terrain and high heat, progress continues to be made on all flanks,” according to statement released Thursday morning by the Angeles National Forest information office. “Although we are expecting a termination of the excessive heat warning today, the temperatures in the area will continue to be above average for this time of year.”
Firefighting operations were conducted to remove small fingers of unburned fuel near Pine Mountain.
Some 505 firefighters were assigned to the blaze as of Thursday morning, including 21 engines, 14 hand crews, four helicopters, one fixed-wing aircraft, seven dozers and one water tender.
The crews were working toward two major goals: reinforcing the northern edge of the fireline along Rincon Red Box Trail, and completing a firebreak along the northwestern shoulder division between Fern Canyon and Cold Springs Canyon, to tie together the two western edges of the fire.
All earlier evacuations orders have been lifted, but the following road closures remain in effect:
— San Gabriel Canyon Road/Highway 39: closed at Northbound Hwy 39 at Sierra Madre Avenue (southbound Highway 39 is closed at East Fork Road);
— Glendora Mountain Road: closed from Big Dalton to East Fork;
— Glendora Ridge Road: closed from Glendora Mountain Road to Mt. Baldy Road; and
— Santa Anita Canyon Road: closed from Arno Drive to Chantry Flats Road.
The Angeles National Forest changed its Forest Fire Danger Level from very high to extreme and moved into full fire-restriction mode, including prohibiting camp fires in developed sites. Cooking stoves, lanterns and similar devices that use propane, white gas or similar fuels are prohibited.
No injuries or structural damage have been reported since the fire began about 2:45 p.m. Aug. 13 near North San Gabriel Canyon Road and North Ranch Road.
Felony charges were filed this week against a 36-year-old homeless man who allegedly set the blaze during an argument with a fellow transient. Osmin Palencia, who lives in a tent near the Mountain Cove community, could face up to 23 years in state prison if convicted of one count each of arson during a state of emergency and arson of a structure or forest, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Palencia — who allegedly has a prior conviction from 2015 for dissuading a witness — surrendered to authorities on Sunday and has remained behind bars since then. He is set to be arraigned Sept. 11 at the West Covina courthouse.
A witness who lives in a riverbed near Mountain Cove said he observed the argument that allegedly precipitated the fire, which came dangerously close to homes.
“There were two gentlemen in the back (of a homeless encampment) fighting and they were arguing over a bike and one guy said he’d burn the other guy out, and things got escalated to where the fire started,” evacuee Jimmy Pockets told NBC4. “Ran over to try to put it out, but it just took off so quick.”