Brush fire in Monrovia at 85 percent containment, all evacuations lifted

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Updated 4:00 p.m.: Fire crews have been able to gain on a brush fire that broke out close to the 210 Freeway Saturday. As of Sunday at 4 p.m., all evacuation orders had been lifted. The fire was at 85 percent containment. 

Updated 1:20 p.m.: A spokesperson for the city of Monrovia says the brush fire burning near the 210 Freeway is still 55 percent contained. 

Spokeswoman Jennifer McLain said Sunday that light wind was helping firefighters gain the upper hand on the fire and that fire crews had scaled back their equipment, to 20 engines from 65 on Saturday. A helicopter continued to make water drops on the area. 

Evacuation orders remained in effect for Hidden Valley and Highland streets Sunday afternoon. 

Updated 10:40 a.m.: The city of Monrovia has issued a press release saying evacuation orders are still in place for the Hidden Valley and Highland streets "in anticipation of potential wind shifts."

No structures have been damaged in the fire, the statement says. Weather conditions remain favorable. 

Update 10:00 a.m.: Officials say they are making steady progress against a brushfire that has burned 125 acres in Monrovia. Monrovia city spokeswoman Jennifer McLain told City New Service the fire is at about 55 percent containment. 

"The fire is laying down,''  McLain said. "You don't see the flames.''

About 100 homes in the neighborhood of Alta Vista, Briar Cliff, Hidden Valley and Highland remain evacuated. 

Fire Chief Chris Donovan told the Associated Press that dry, thick brush on steep terrain make the fire difficult to contain. More than 200 firefighters are battling the blaze.

One firefighter suffered a heat-related injury, the AP reported.

Update 8:30 a.m: Firefighters late Sunday morning appeared to have brought a brush fire under control that had grew to consume an estimated 125 acres of land in the hillside neighborhoods of Monrovia and caused 200 homes to be evacuated. Officials had previously estimated 175 acres had burned, but revised that Sunday morning.

City officials say the blaze was sparked by equipment used by a gardener working the backyard. Flames spread to the hillside behind the residence, scorching about 125 acres.

Mandatory evacuations were lifted early Sunday for nearby neighborhoods. Earlier Saturday, Hidden Valley, Alta Vista, Briar Cliff and Highland neighborhoods were asked to evacuate their homes as a precaution.

"There is no imminent danger. Some flames are still burning, primarily off of Lotone and Heather Heights," said Monrovia Fire Chief Chris Donovan, who asked residents to be patient as officials work to make lifting the evacuation order possible.

The Red Cross has established a shelter at the Monrovia Community Center, located at 119 West Palm Ave. in Monrovia, the news release said. The Community Center can be reached at (626) 256-8246.

No damage to homes or structures have been reported, according to the news release. A Pasadena firefighter injured earlier in the day was treated on scene and released.

Wonder Dog Ranch at 220 Taylor Street in Monrovia has offered to provide housing for pets belonging to those who had to evacuate free of charge, and has posted guidelines for pet owners on its website. The Pasadena Humane Society has extended a similar offer.

Donovan said personnel had been downgraded to 20 fire engines and six hand crews, and air support remains available if needed.

The Monrovia Fire Department was alerted to the fire at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday near 322 N Madison Ave. The Associated Press reports the fire could have been sparked by a gardener working in the backyard of a house in the city.

Flames then spread to the undeveloped hillside behind the residence, and between 2 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. the fire had grown from 15 acres to 170 acres, fueled by aging brush hilly terrain which made containment difficult.

As the fire grew in scope, residents were notified of mandatory evacuations through door-to-door efforts by the Monrovia Police Department, which had ordered streets north of Foothill Boulevard, from Lincoln Place to Myrtle Avenue, closed to thru traffic. Residents could still travel to and from their homes.

As the sun set and additional crews were called in, fire fighters began to make headway.

At the peak of the fire, more than 220 fire fighters and 65 fire engines from fire departments around the city were working to contain the blaze.

The Los Angeles Fire Department had sent five of their engines and a helicopter to help battle the flames, while water-dropping helicopters gathered water from local reservoirs to drench the flaming hillsides, NBC LA reported.

Saturday afternoon, smoke could be seen from Pasadena, 10 miles away, and City News Service reported that traffic on the 210 Freeway was snarled all afternoon, as flames and smoke were visible.

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This story has been updated.

With contributions from Chris Keller and Eric Zassenhaus

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