Firefighters Monday were continuing their efforts to fully extinguish the Ranch2 Fire burning near Azusa, which was 81% contained after scorching 4,237 acres.
Containment lines were preventing the blaze from spreading while unburned vegetation within the lines in places continued to smolder and burn out. Vegetation remains at critical dryness levels, U.S. Forest Service officials said.
Crews have been focusing on building containment lines on the western edge of the fire between Fern and Cold Creek canyons, according to fire officials, who said good relative humidity recovery was expected to help slow fire activity.
The western flank of the fire, where terrain is especially steep, has been especially difficult for firefighters, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which is estimating that full containment will be achieved on Friday.
No structural damage has been reported since the suspected arson blaze began about 2:45 p.m. Aug. 13 near North San Gabriel Canyon Road and North Ranch Road.
Eight cases of heat-related injuries to firefighters have been reported, and 50 firefighters have been treated for exposure to poison oak during the firefighting effort, said Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority, who is serving as an information officer for the Ranch2 Fire.
The number of firefighters assigned to the blaze was reduced from 412 to 284 on Sunday. Incident commanders anticipate reducing that number further in the near future, Concialdi said.
Felony charges were filed last 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 Aug. 16 and has remained behind bars since then. He is set to be arraigned Sept. 11 at the West Covina courthouse.
All evacuation orders have been lifted, but the following road closures remain in effect:
— San Gabriel Canyon Road/Highway 39: closed at Northbound Highway 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 last week 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.