Environment & Science

San Gabriel Complex Fire: Firefighters try to make progress before more fire weather arrives

A DC-10 air tanker drops fire retardant in Duarte on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Twin fires have continued to burn in the San Gabriel Valley.
A DC-10 air tanker drops fire retardant in Duarte on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Twin fires have continued to burn in the San Gabriel Valley.
Nick Ut/AP
A DC-10 air tanker drops fire retardant in Duarte on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Twin fires have continued to burn in the San Gabriel Valley.
A photo tweeted Wednesday, June 22, 2016 by South Coast AQMD of the San Gabriel Complex Fire.
South Coast AQMD
A DC-10 air tanker drops fire retardant in Duarte on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Twin fires have continued to burn in the San Gabriel Valley.
Aircraft make water drops over the San Gabriel Complex fire on Tuesday afternoon, June 21, 2016 in Bradbury near Spinks Canyon Road.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


After days of triple digit heat and dry weather conditions, lower temperatures and humidity came as welcome relief for nearly 1,000 crew members battling the San Gabriel Complex Fire Thursday. Still, firefighters were anticipating more fire weather with a Red Flag Warning beginning Thursday evening and running through Saturday.

Fears that the fire would eventually prompt evacuations for residents of Monrovia have been reduced for now as authorities deemed Wednesday there is "no immediate threat" to the area, though police are asking that residents remain vigilant. An advisory from the city notes that weather patterns can change at any moment and it has an evacuation plan in case it's needed. 

This story is no longer being updated. See Friday's updates here.

Evacuations | Air quality

Update 4:01 p.m. Firefighters try to make progress before more fire weather arrives

Firefighters were able to use more of their resources building containment line and fighting the fire directly rather than focusing on protecting homes on Thursday, according to fire information officer Nathan Judy. Firefighters were trying to make as much progress as possible before a fire weather warning goes into effect Thursday evening through Saturday, Judy told KPCC.

"To secure the fire line that's above the Mountain Cove area, we created helispots on the mountaintop where we can insert our crew so they don't have to hike into these really steep, inaccessible areas. We are now able to drop them on mountaintops, so they can attack the fire directly to slow any kind of progression," Judy said.

Those hotshot crews being dropped in were also building more line. Firefighters were also continuing to attack the fire from the air with water and fire retardant drops. In addition to hand crews, firefighters were also using multiple bulldozers to put in containment lines. Judy said that firefighters' goal for Thursday was creating more containment.

That''s a shift from Wednesday, when firefighters were concentrating on protecting homes in Duarte and Monrovia, according to Judy.

"Those folks were able to attack that area yesterday, concentrating on the homes, making sure we had those protected. That got completed yesterday in portions of the Duarte area; that's why we were allowed to let people back into their homes, which we really wanted to get done," Judy said.

Firefighters were still working Thursday on the eastern portion of the fire to help secure more homes so that people can be allowed to return, Judy said.

San Gabriel Canyon above Azusa was set to remain closed through the weekend, Judy said, so he advised people who wanted somewhere to camp or hike this weekend to check online and find somewhere else to go.

"We have a lot of fire apparatuses on Highway 39, and we have a lot of rocks that are rolling onto the road itself due to the fire being above it. So you have a lot of rock material rolling down, a lot of plant life rolling down onto the roadway. So we don't want to allow people into those areas until we feel it's safe to get back up Highway 39," Judy said.

Evacuations

A map from the city of Duarte notes that residents from Markwood to Willowglen will be able enter and leave their homes with ID. Those who live above Willowglen are still under mandatory evacuation Thursday.
A map from the city of Duarte notes that residents from Markwood to Willowglen will be able enter and leave their homes with ID. Those who live above Willowglen are still under mandatory evacuation Thursday.

In Duarte, some residents in the Las Lomas area will be allowed to return but will be required to show identification. Residents that live above Willowglen Drive are still under mandatory evacuation.

No one is permitted to come or go within the closure at Woodlyn Court and Mt. Olive Drive.

Those who live between Willowglen Drive and Markwood Street will be able to come and go through checkpoints, also with their IDs. Additionally, the area from Royal Oaks and Mt. Olive to Woodlyn Court is available for residents to come and go with ID. (See a larger version of the city's closure and evacuation map).

The Brookridge area was completely opened as of 10 p.m. Wednesday and residents are free to come and go without any kind of checkpoint.

Returning residents can bring their small pets with them, according to the L.A. Sheriff's Dept. No livestock will be allowed to return for at least 24 hours.

In Azusa, Mountain Cove is still under mandatory evacuation, according to the Azusa Police Department. Residents of that area can be escorted by police from 8 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday to retrieve belongings.

Residents of 534 homes were allowed back into their neighborhoods Wednesday afternoon after two nights of mandatory evacuation. In total, the San Gabriel Complex Fire caused about 858 home evacuations, L.A. County Sheriff Commander David Halm said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Caltrans said Highway 39 will remain closed north of Azusa at Morris Dam Road for an unknown duration.

Sheriff's deputies escort Mountain Cove residents back in to their homes to retrieve essential items.
Sheriff's deputies escort Mountain Cove residents back in to their homes to retrieve essential items.
Angeles National Forest

Air quality

An updated air quality advisory was sent out Thursday, extending the advisory another day. It's now set to expire at midnight Friday, but fires continue to burn and the advisory has been extended several times already.

However, smoke from the fires was expected to move east Thursday, AQMD's Sam Atwood told KPCC, with winds blowing toward San Bernardino and Riverside. A lack of wind overnight was expected to allow smoke to settle in valleys near the fire.

Unhealthy air quality and direct smoke at times will likely affect portions of the following areas, according to AQMD:

AQMD offered these tips for any area impacted by smoke:

  • Everyone should avoid any vigorous outdoor or indoor exertion
  • People with respiratory or heart disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors
  • Keep windows and doors closed or seek alternate shelter
  • Run your air conditioner if you have one and keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside
  • Avoid using a swamp cooler or whole-house fan to prevent bringing additional smoke inside
  • To avoid worsening the health effects of wildfire smoke, don’t use indoor or outdoor wood-burning appliances, including fireplaces

This story has been updated.