Firefighters appeared to be getting a handle on the Ranch 2 Fire burning near Azusa Saturday, leading some to be diverted to battle fires in Northern California, a public information officer said Saturday.
The Ranch 2 Fire had scorched 4,237 acres and was 49% contained as of midday Saturday. An approximate number of firefighters diverted north was not immediately known, said Ranch 2 Fire PIO Steven Concialdi, adding that Friday’s effort near Azusa began with 500 firefighters.
On Saturday morning, firefighters worked to reinforce fire lines and extinguish remaining hot spots near the fire’s perimeter.
“We’ve transitioned from eight days of intensive and excessive heat to where the weather is quickly changing, as a flash flood warning has been issued from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” Concialdi said. “These tropical thunderstorms could trigger flash floods and mud and debris flows into the burn areas, onto Highway 39 and into the Mountain Cove community.”
The fire has not been very active and the perimeter of the blaze appears to be stable and holding, although there were some reports of heat in areas around the Pine Mountain region in the northwest area of the fire. Crews were confident they are not a threat and will continue to monitor the area, as needed, according to a statement from the U.S. Forest Service.
There have been eight cases of heat-related injuries to firefighters, with four firefighters being able to return to work. The others were hospitalized and released, the Forest Service said.
Crews will build containment lines on the western edge of the fire between Fern and Cold Creek canyons, the statement said.
Some 427 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, including 21 engines, 14 hand crews, four helicopters, one fixed-wing aircraft, seven dozers and one water tender.
The estimated time for containment is Friday, Aug. 28.
All earlier evacuation orders have been lifted, but the following road closures remained 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 on 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.”
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