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Fires burns 1,700 acres in Angeles National Forrest

CNN News Wire | 1/17/2014, 9:54 a.m.
Angeles National Forrest

GLENDORA,Calif., - A blaze that was allegedly set by a trio of people tossing papers into a campfire scorched about 1,700 acres today in the Angeles National Forest north of Glendora, destroying two homes and leaving at four people with minor injuries.

The so-called Colby Fire was reported around 5:50 a.m. near San Gabriel Canyon Road, fire officials said.

Fueled by gusting winds and fed by exceedingly dry vegetation, the fire quickly exploded across hundreds of acres, torching at least two homes in its path, according to Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.

County fire officials said two civilians -- including a woman who was hit by a burning palm frond -- were injured, along with two firefighters, one of whom suffered an ankle injury. All four people were taken to hospitals, although all of the injuries were considered minor, according to county Fire Inspector Scott Miller.

Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said a resident called police shortly after the fire began and reported seeing at least two people near what was believed to be the origin of the blaze.

Officers responded to the scene and took three people into custody and later arrested. They were identified as Clifford Eugene Henry Jr., 22, of Glendora; Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 23, Irwindale; and Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, a transient last known to live in Los Angeles. “Reportedly, they were up, they had set a campfire,” Staab said.

“They were tossing papers into the campfire and a breeze -- reportedly -- a breeze had kicked up and set this fire.”

He said all three men, one of whom he described as “apologetic,” were being held at the Glendora city jail on $20,000 bail on suspicion of recklessly starting a fire.

“They are being cooperative,” Staab said. “I’ve been told by detectives that one has made an admission to our detectives and has admitted to setting this fire.”

Staab said the area where the men were was not a camping area, but people are known to camp in the hills above Glendora.

“They told us they were camping out,” he said. “There’s no evidence to indicate they were living up there.”

Azusa police estimated that between 1,700 and 2,000 people were evacuated from the area, and 870 homes were affected.

One of the homes that was lost was a guest house on the nearly 6-acre campus of the Singer Mansion, a 1920s estate built by heirs to the Singer sewing machine fortune on Kregmont Drive.

Evacuations were ordered north of Sierra Boulevard between Glendora Mountain Road and Highway 39. Roads were also closed north of Sierra Madre Boulevard between Lorraine and Highway 39.

An evacuation center was established at Finkbiner Park, near Foothill Boulevard and Grand Avenue in Glendora. The American Red Cross later set up an evacuation center at Glendora High School, 1600 E. Foothill Blvd. Another center was established for Duarte residents at the Duarte Community Center, 1600 Huntington Drive.

Deputy Chief John Tripp of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said he understands residents were anxious to return home, but they should be prepared to wait as embers continue to endanger the area.