Mandatory evacuations were in effect today after one of two wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest began spreading in two directions, threatening some 500 homes in La Canada Flintridge, fire officials said.
The 500-acre Station Fire, which broke out about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday near Angeles Crest Highway above La Canada Flintridge, was only 5 percent contained early today, said Fire Information Officer Dianne Cahir of the Angeles National Forest. Containment had previously been estimated at 10 percent.
Authorities began evacuating La Canada Flintridge residents late Thursday, when the blaze started spreading in two directions: Flames north of the Angeles Crest Ranger Station along Angeles Crest Highway began burning in a southeasterly direction while the fire also started to slide northwest toward Mt. Lukens Truck Trail, according to fire officials.
Five hundred homes and five buildings were determined to be "at risk," prompting mandatory evacuations in the area north of Vista del Valle Road, east of La Canada Boulevard extending into the La Canada Country Club area, Cahir said.
Evacuations were also ordered for Camp High Hill by Red Box and Clear Creek Outdoor Education Center.
The evacuation center previously set up at Crescenta Valley High School was moved early today to La Canada High School at 4463 Oak Grove Drive.
Helicopters crews continued performing water drops overnight while firefighters cut containment
lines above La Canada Flintridge in an effort to stop flames from reaching homes, an Angeles Nationale Forest fire information officer said early today.
Four helicopters and an air tanker attacked the Station Fire from the air while some 700 firefighters worked on the ground to establish containment lines, fire officials said.
The blaze appeared to pose no serious threat to homes in neighboring La Canada Flintridge early today, when firefighters were able to hold it to roughly 20 acres with 20 percent containment. But the hot, dry weather combined with the area's topography to trigger a rapid explosion in the fire's growth, Cahir said.
"There are some very steep canyons in that area that haven't burned in over 60 years," Cahir said.
"If there is any gusts of wind in those canyons, it's like a chimney," she said. "The brush just goes up in flames and spreads, plus the heat and lack of humidity -- it's really a combination of things."
Cahir said this week's record-setting heat has been of no help to firefighters. "It's just zapping the energy from them," she said.
Roughly 1,600 firefighters, meanwhile, remained assigned to the larger of the two wildfires, the Morris Fire, which broke out late Tuesday afternoon near San Gabriel Canyon Road and the Morris Dam and Reservoir, Cahir said.
As of late Thursday night, the fire had scorched about 2,000 acres and was 60 percent contained, said Rachel Mailo of the U.S. Forest Service.
Authorities Thursday also ordered the closure of the Angeles National Forest.
"Going into or being upon National Forest System lands, roads or trails in the area will not be allowed," except for people or organizations with special-use permits, said Sherry Rollman, of the Angeles National Forest.
A violation of the order is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months or both, Rollman said.
The forest will be under a National Weather Service red flag warning, signifying a high risk of wildfire, until at least 9 p.m.
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