Fire spreads to 3,000 acres after sparking near homes in Azusa, forcing evacuations

California

AZUSA, Calif. — Mandatory evacuations were in place Thursday night after a wildfire erupted in Azusa and rapidly consumed 3,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest, officials said.

The blaze sparked around 3 p.m. in a creek bed near the corner of San Gabriel Canyon and Ranch roads, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which was assisting U.S. Forest Service firefighters. The location is near the San Gabriel Canyon Gateway Center.

Dubbed the Ranch 2 Fire (after earlier being named the Ranch Fire), it was initially reported to cover about 2 acres. The flames quickly spread to 500 acres within an hour, and grew to 2,500 acres within three hours.

The blaze was 0% contained Thursday night, fire officials said.

Flames and heavy smoke surround the Mountain Cove community in Azusa during the Ranch Fire on Aug. 13, 2020. (KTLA)
Flames and heavy smoke surround the Mountain Cove community in Azusa during the Ranch Fire on Aug. 13, 2020. (KTLA)

A mandatory evacuation order was in place in the Mountain Cove community, covering residences south of Highwood Court and north and west of Turning Leaf and Boulder Ridge.

The order was put in place at 3:30 p.m. and expanded at 3:45 p.m.

Residents north of Highwood Court were under a voluntary evacuation order.

An evacuation center was set up at Azusa Pacific University, 601 E. Foothill Blvd.

Evacuation updates were being posted to the Azusa Police Department’s Twitter page.

Northbound Highway 39 was closed past Sierra Madre Avenue, while the southbound lanes were closed at East Fork Road.

Authorities urged residents to heed evacuation orders; although the blaze had largely moved away from homes, heavy burning continued on hillsides just above homes later Thursday night.

More than 300 homes in Mountain Cove remained threatened Thursday night, fire officials said.

Aerial video from Sky5 showed the hillsides surrounding the development were charred as firefighters worked to protect the homes around 4 p.m. Aerial units were also being used to drop water in the area.

Around 4:25 p.m., fire officials said the blaze was moving away from residences and further into the forest, toward an area already burned in last month’s Dam Fire.

The flames were consuming highly flammable brush in rugged terrain that was difficult for crews to reach, said Seneca Smith, a fire prevention captain with the U.S. Forest Service.

“The issue we have here is not only steep terrain, but we have very, very dry brush” that reaches 6-8 feet high in some places, Smith said.

No structures had been damaged or injuries reported in Thursday’s blaze.

The fire was generating heavy smoke, which was moving northeast across the forest and away from the Los Angeles basin Thursday afternoon, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

By Thursday evening into Friday morning, shifting winds could push the smoke into the San Gabriel Valley, but gusts were expected to shift back and again send the smoke northeast later Friday, officials said.

The Ranch Fire is among several burning in Southern California Thursday as scorching temperatures brought dangerous fire conditions to the region.

The largest, the Lake Fire, had consumed at least 10,500 acres and destroyed three structures after sparking Wednesday afternoon in the Lake Hughes area. It was 0% contained.

L.A. County firefighters also responded to brush fires in El Monte and West Covina Thursday, the latter of which had been moving toward homes.

In Corona, the 25-acre Skyline Fire erupted near homes Thursday afternoon. Some residents were told to be prepared to evacuate.

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