Wildfire prompts evacuations in Southern CA forest

A wildfire that broke out in the Angeles National Forest on Sunday forced the evacuation of thousands of visitors and sent a huge cloud of smoke that could be seen from throughout the Los Angeles basin.

The fire broke out near a campground around 2:30 p.m. and quickly grew to 3,600 acres, or about 5 ½ square miles.

It forced the evacuation of campgrounds that typically attract up to 12,000 visitors on Labor Day holiday weekend, as well as rehabilitation centers and the private community of Camp Williams Resort above the city of Glendora, forest spokeswoman L'Tanga Watson said.

"We got most folks out along the recreational area," Watson said.

The forest is heavily used by Southern Californians because of its proximity 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 other emergency vehicles.

The fire was burning thick brush that was not touched by the destructive Station Fire in 2009, Watson said. She said the flames, fueled by a combination of dry, hot conditions and the heavy brush, were marching uphill toward the wilderness.

About 300 firefighters, aided by four water-dropping helicopters and nine air tankers, were able to contain 5 percent of the blaze. Fire officials also activated the use of a DC-10 capable of dropping thousands of gallons of retardant.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The Station Fire, which killed two firefighters, destroyed 89 homes and blackened 250 square miles of forest land, 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.

Fire spokeswoman Kate Kramer says the increase in the number structures burned in the North Pass fire comes as crews found more destroyed buildings in the remote area over the weekend.

The fire, which has scorched nearly 64 square miles, is 58 per cent contained.