GLENDORA, Calif. – A wildfire that broke out in the Angeles National Forest has cut short the Labor Day holiday weekend for thousands of visitors who flock to the popular recreational attraction.
The fire broke out near a campground Sunday afternoon and quickly grew to 3,600 acres, or about 5 1/2 square miles. It sent a huge cloud of smoke that could be seen from the coast to the desert inland.
Campgrounds that typically attract up to 12,000 visitors on the holiday weekend, as well as rehabilitation centers and the private community of Camp Williams Resort above the city of Glendora, were evacuated, forest spokeswoman L'Tanga Watson said.
The forest is heavily used by Southern California residents because it is close to populated areas. Fire officials said that while the campgrounds were not in the line of the fire, they had to be emptied so that the only road in and out of the San Gabriel Canyon could be open just for fire trucks and emergency vehicles.
The fire was burning thick brush that was not touched by a destructive fire in 2009, Watson said. She said the flames, fueled by a combination of dry heat and the heavy brush, were marching uphill toward the wilderness.
About 300 firefighters were aided by four water-dropping helicopters and nine air tankers. Fire officials also activated the use of a DC-10 capable of dropping thousands of gallons of retardant.
Firefighters were counting on cooler weather overnight to help them gain control of the blaze, Watson said.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
The 2009 fire, which killed two firefighters, destroyed 89 homes and blackened 250 square miles of forest, was the largest in Los Angeles County history.
In Northern California, a fire that's been burning since Aug. 18 in a rugged area of Mendocino County has destroyed seven homes and nine outbuildings, fire officials said Sunday. That fire has scorched nearly 64 square miles.