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.
“This is going to remain unsafe for the public for at least the rest of the day,” Tripp said.
Evacuated pets can be brought to the Pasadena Humane Society at 361 S. Raymond Ave, according to the humane society.
A shelter for evacuated horses was set up at the Fairplex, Gate 12, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., in Pomona.
School closures in Glendora included Cullen, La Fetra and Sellers elementary schools; and Goddard and Sandburg middle schools.
Goddard Middle School at 859 E. Sierra Madre Ave. was designated to serve as the unified command post.
Citrus College in Glendora was closed today because of the fire, said college spokeswoman Paula Green. She urged students and staff to keep track of developments affecting the school by checking the website at www.citrustruscollege.edu.
Also closed was St. Lucy’s Priory High School.
Jim Hall of the U.S. Forest Service said at least 700 firefighters were on the scene, aided by eight air tankers and seven helicopters.
Osby said that although two homes were burned, fire crews were able to respond quickly to the area due to fire-weather conditions that have gripped the area for the past three days.
“Because of our preparation, we were able to save hundreds, if not thousands, of homes this morning,” he said.