Colby Fire 30 percent contained

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A helicopter carrying water flies over the residential area as a man sprays water on his home on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in Azusa, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A helicopter carrying water flies over the residential area as a man sprays water on his home on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in Azusa, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

GLENDORA (CNS) – Firefighters overnight battled a flareup of the so- called Colby Fire in the Angeles National Forest north of Glendora but kept the fire from spreading outside the 1,700-acre containment area.

The fire, allegedly set by a trio of young men tossing papers into a campfire, destroyed five homes, damaged 17 other structures and caused minor injuries to three people since it began about 5:50 a.m. Thursday near Glendora Mountain Road. It was about 30 percent contained today.

About 1,100 firefighters were deployed in the firefighting effort today, along with nine helicopters and two SuperScooper aircraft.

Fueled by gusty winds and fed by exceedingly dry vegetation, the fire exploded across hundreds of acres but by late Thursday afternoon, firefighters had halted the fire’s forward progress.
Overnight, firefighters worked to put out hot spots near structures, an effort that was expected to continue throughout the day.

Damage-assessment teams were working today to provide a more precise report on the number of structures that were damaged or destroyed, authorities said.

The flareup of flames occurred about 1 a.m. today in San Gabriel Canyon, but firefighters kept the fire from spreading outside the containment line.

On Thursday, about 3,500 people were evacuated from an area north of Sierra Madre Avenue between State Route 39 in Azusa to Glendora Mountain Road in Glendora. About 6 p.m. Thursday, the evacuation order was lifted in Glendora, but it remained in effect today in Azusa.

Three people were injured. On Thursday, one resident — a woman who suffered a minor burn while trying to fight the fire — was injured but not taken to a hospital.

Two firefighters were also hurt. One of them suffered an ankle injury that did not require hospitalization, while the other was taken to a hospital for treatment of a minor burn.

Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said a resident called police shortly after the fire began and reported seeing at least two people near what was believed to be the origin of the blaze.

Officers went to the scene and took three people into custody. They were identified as Clifford Eugene Henry Jr., 22, of Glendora; Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 23, Irwindale; and Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, a transient last known to live in Los Angeles.

“Reportedly, they were up, they had set a campfire,” Staab said. “They were tossing papers into the campfire and a breeze — reportedly — a breeze had kicked up and set this fire.”

Staab described one of the suspects as “apologetic.” All three were being held at the Glendora city jail in lieu of $500,000 bail on suspicion of recklessly starting a fire, according to sheriff’s online booking records.

The bail amounts, originally $20,000 for each suspect, were increased due to the amount of property damage from the fire, according to Glendora police Sgt. Michael Henderson.

The men are due in court in West Covina on Tuesday, according to the sheriff’s department.

“They are being cooperative,” Staab said. “I’ve been told by detectives that one has made an admission to our detectives and has admitted to setting this fire.”

One of the homes that was lost was a guest house on the nearly 6-acre campus of the Singer Mansion, a 1920s estate built on Kregmont Drive by heirs to the Singer sewing machine fortune.
The damaged structures include homes, garages and outbuildings.

School closures in Glendora on Thursday included Cullen, La Fetra and Sellers elementary schools; and Goddard and Sandburg middle schools.

All of the schools will be open today, said Kostas Kalaitzidis of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Public schools in Duarte will be closed today for previously scheduled staff development, he said.

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