Environment & Science

Fires near Azusa, Duarte force evacuations, power outages and air concerns

A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016, burning near Lori Moreno's home in Duarte.
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016, burning near Lori Moreno's home in Duarte.
Ken Moreno
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016, burning near Lori Moreno's home in Duarte.
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016, burning near Lori Moreno's home in Duarte.
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016, burning near Lori Moreno's home in Duarte.
A fire burning near Duarte on Monday, June 20, 2016.
Nick Roman/KPCC
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016, burning near Lori Moreno's home in Duarte.
Courtesy ABC7.com
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016, burning near Lori Moreno's home in Duarte.
Courtesy ABC7.com

Two fast-moving brush fires burning in the Angeles National Forest Monday have forced evacuations for nearby homes and closed Highway 39, police and fire officials said. Other residents were told to prepare for possible evacuation. Health officials have deemed the air quality unhealthy in the area, advising those smelling smoke to remain indoors if possible.

This story is no longer being updated. For updates, see Tuesday's story on the fires burning in the Angeles National Forest. 

Fire details | Evacuation info | Power outages | Images from the scene


San Gabriel Complex Fire

Update 8:15: Fire crews aiming to protect nearby homes; blazes likely to merge

Fire officials say the Fish Fire burning near Duarte has picked up speed late Monday afternoon, prompting them to order new evacuations

L.A. County Fire Chief Keith Mora told KPCC gusts that had been ranging between 12 and 15 miles an hour in the afternoon were now averaging around 20 to 25 miles per hour, increasing concern for communities near the fire's path.

"With that slope, with that terrain, it's moving quite rapidly when it goes up that hill," he said, "so anything in its path is in danger."

 Mora added that the evacuations were ordered to help firefighters get ready to protect homes in the area. 

"We wanted to make sure that we get those residents out early enough that we can start wrapping our hose lines around those structures, protect them the best that we can and see if we can stop this before it does impede on that community," he said.

The chief added that the fires, separated only by one canyon, are likely to merge into one as the evening. Crews are planning to use night vision helicopters to make drops of fire retardant overnight. 

The Reservoir Fire was sparked by a vehicle that tumbled off Highway 39, igniting an area around the crash. One person was killed in that incident, Mora said. The nearby Fish Fire may have been spurred by an ember from that fire, Mora said, but investigators have not yet determined the case. 

Update 7:02 p.m.: Evacuee: 'It escalated super quickly'

Kiyhanna Dade, a 22-year-old Mountain Cove resident, was evacuated Monday along with her mother, sister, two nephews and three dogs.

“It escalated super quickly,” Dade said. “We looked outside at the fire, and you could only see the smoke, and literally within seven minutes we looked outside and the flames were like, coming over the mountain.”

Mountain Cove authorities sounded a warning bell for residents living in the area, and within 15 minutes police cars began alerting people to leave their homes, Dade said. Her family had just enough time to pack up a safe full of important documents and some clothes that they drove to her godmother’s house in La Verne, where plumes of smoke were still thick in the sky.


Twitter: Witness photo

This was the third fire evacuation Dade’s family had experienced, the most recent being in 2014. But this fire seemed more severe than all the others, mostly because it spread so quickly, she said.

“I’ve never seen the flames that close to my actual house,” Dade said. “Usually I just see the smoke, and see it on the news and stuff. But [now] I actually see the flames, these huge, ginormous flames escalating down the mountain, which is scaring me.”​

— Brianna Lee/ KPCC

Homeowner: 'Just keep hoping that the wind doesn't change'

Lori Moreno, who has lived in her Duarte home for 20 years, was dealing Monday with the Fish Fire burning near her home.

Three dams in the area of the fire are now operating on backup generators, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Works

"I'm seeing flames coming down the mountainside towards our house, and there's a lot of helicopters," Moreno said. "I'm very concerned."

The fire was burning just a few hundred feet from their home, Moreno said. They weren't evacuating yet, but Moreno said they had things packed up and had moved their vehicles around to make sure they could get out quickly.

The helicopters had been dropping water and fire retardant on the fire nearby for most of the day.

"It was a little before noon when I started hearing all the noise," Moreno said.

Moreno said the wind was currently blowing northeast.

"Right now, what we have going for us is the wind seems to be blowing away from us," Moreno said. "The scary thing is, if the winds shift, and blows towards the west, then it's going to start coming this way again. So, just keep hoping that the wind doesn't change."

Mike Roe/KPCC

Evacuations in effect nearby

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for the Mountain Cove, Rainbow Ranch, Camp Williams and Glendora Mountain Road areas, according to the Azusa Police Department and the Angeles National Forest.

Duarte residents on the 3100 and 3500 blocks of Brookridge Road were under mandatory evacuations Monday afternoon. By evening, more residents were ordered to evacuate, including those living in Duarte Mesa, residents above Markwood Street between Westvale Road and Tocino Drive and residents above Conata between Tocino Drive and Mountain Crest Road, according to Monday evening tweets from the City of Duarte.

More than 685 homes are impacted those orders. Deputies are assisting those in northeast Duarte with voluntary evacuations.

Residents of Monrovia, Glendora and Bradbury were warned in an evening press conference to be ready to evacuate, just in case. L.A. County Fire's John Tripp said that downward canyon winds could force more evacuations and endanger more homes. There were also voluntary evacuations in effect for the Crystal Canyon and Mirador neighborhoods.

Twitter: Evacuations in Azusa

Homes in the San Gabriel Canyon are also being evacuated, according to officials for the Angeles National Forest. The Azusa Police Department also announced that Encanto Parkway on Azusa's western border would be shut down. 

The Red Cross has opened an evacuation center at 1610 Huntington Drive in Duarte. Large animals were being accepted at the Pomona Fairplex.

Here's what you need to know if you're asked to prepare to evacuate. 

Power lines in peril in Duarte

The Fish Fire burning near Duarte has threatened Southern California Edison transmission and distribution lines, the agency's Robert Villegas told KPCC.

Villegas said as of 3:30 p.m. 189 customers were without power due to the Fish Fire. He said SoCal Edison is working with state officials to gauge threats to transmission lines from the fire.

"There are always concerns during fires in terms of the fire, or any debris created by the fire interfering with the lines," Villegas said. "We have to keep our crews back from inspecting any lines until firefighters tell us it’s safe to go in there. And then sometimes we work in conjunction with the firefighters as well to de-energize the lines and make sure power isn't running through the lines."

Tweet: Power lines

The Reservoir Fire burning near the transmission lines knocked out power to three dams operated by the L.A. County Department of Public Works, the agency's Bob Spencer told KPCC's Sharon McNary.

The Morris, San Gabriel and Cogswell dams were switched to backup generators when the power went down, he said.

The Reservoir Fire started in between Morris Dam and San Gabriel Dam, which are about two miles apart.

Spencer said the dams haven't been damaged.

L.A. County Fire Captain Keith Mora said earlier in the day that firefighters have had to avoid making drops near those power lines. 

"We steer real clear of those power lines," he said. "We've had a few of the power lines that have been arcing and causing trouble for us."

Mora added that fire officials are working closely with Edison to get power restored.

Update 12:04 p.m.: Cause under investigation

Firefighters are battling the Reservoir Fire on the hillsides off Highway 39, above Azusa near the Morris Reservoir Dam, according to officials with the Angeles National Forest. It broke out around 11:45 a.m. and spread rapidly. Another fire, the Fish Fire, started shortly after about four miles to the south.

There was a vehicle at the side of the highway near the Reservoir Fire, but an L.A. County Fire spokesperson said they couldn't say what caused the vehicle to go over the side of the road or whether it caused or contributed to the fire.

There are no structures in the area, according to L.A. County Fire, and no injuries have been reported so far.

The Reservoir Fire is burning in rocky terrain without much fuel on the outer perimeters, according to L.A. County Fire officials.

The Fish Fire, burning adjacent to L.A. County's San Gabriel Canyon Spreading Grounds, according to L.A. County Public Works. That fire can be seen from the 210 Freeway.

The fires come as a record-breaking heat wave hits Southern California, with fire danger high throughout the region.

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Tweets, Instas and Facebook posts from the fires

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the fire in a photo. KPCC regrets the error.