Crews battle into the night to contain Colby Fire - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Crews battle into the night to contain Colby Fire

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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) 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)
A wildfire burns in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, Calif. on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014. A wildfire burns in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, Calif. on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014.
A fast moving wildfire makes it way up a hill towards a house in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, Calif. on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014. (AP) A fast moving wildfire makes it way up a hill towards a house in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, Calif. on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014. (AP)
A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop over homes in Glendora, Calif., as a wildfire burns in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014. (AP) A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop over homes in Glendora, Calif., as a wildfire burns in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014. (AP)

GLENDORA (CNS) - A blaze that was allegedly set by a trio of young men tossing papers into a campfire was 30 percent contained Thursday night after scorching about 1,700 acres in the Angeles National Forest north of Glendora, destroying five homes, damaging 17 other structures and causing minor injuries to three people, two of them firefighters.

The so-called Colby Fire was reported around 5:50 a.m. near Glendora Mountain Road, where responding firefighters found a four- to five-acre blaze, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Deputy Chief John Tripp.

Fueled by gusting winds and fed by exceedingly dry vegetation, the fire exploded across hundreds of acres. Late this afternoon, firefighters had halted the fire's forward progress with about 1,700 acres burned, Tripp said, adding that the blaze was about 30 percent contained.

One resident -- a woman who suffered a minor burn while trying to fight the fire -- was injured but not taken to a hospital, he said.

Two firefighters were also injured. 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, Tripp said.

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."

Staab said the area where the men were found was not a camping area, but people are known to camp in the hills above Glendora.

"They told us they were camping out," he said. "There's no evidence to indicate they were living up there."

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 17 damaged structures include homes, garages and outbuildings, Tripp said.

A total of 3,700 people were evacuated from the area, and 1,600 of them had been allowed to return home this afternoon, according Ken Kondo of the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management.

Evacuations that had been ordered in Glendora north of Sierra Boulevard between Glendora Mountain Road and the Azusa border were lifted at 6 p.m., Staab said.

Evacuation orders affecting 880 structures and between 1,700 and 2,000 people remained in place this evening in Azusa, where Sierra Madre Avenue between Highway 39 and North Loraine Avenue remained closed, according to Azusa police.

An evacuation center was established at Finkbiner Park, near Foothill Boulevard and Grand Avenue in Glendora. The American Red Cross later set up an evacuation center at Glendora High School, 1600 E. Foothill Blvd. Another center was established for Duarte residents at the Duarte Community Center, 1600 Huntington Drive.

Shelter for evacuated pets was available at the Pasadena Humane Society at 361 S. Raymond Ave, according to the humane society.

A shelter for evacuated horses was set up at the Pomona Fairplex, Gate 12, 1101 W. McKinley Ave.

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

Goddard Middle School at 859 E. Sierra Madre Ave. had served as the designated unified command post, but Nathan Judy of the U.S. Forest Service said tonight that the post was being moved to the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area at 15501 Arrow Highway in Irwindale and would be operating in time for the unified command's 6 a.m. internal briefing.

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

Citrus College in Glendora, which was closed today because of the fire, will reopen on Friday, said college spokeswoman Paula Green.

Also closed today was St. Lucy's Priory High School, which would remain closed on Friday due to poor air quality and ash on the campus, according to the school website.

L'Tanga Watson of the U.S. Forest Service said around 800 firefighters were on the scene. They had been aided by eight air tankers and eight helicopters, she said.

Only helicopters would be making night drops, according to the Forest Service.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said earlier today that although homes were destroyed and damaged, fire crews were able to respond quickly to the area due to fire-weather conditions that have gripped the area for the past three days.

"Because of our preparation, we were able to save hundreds, if not thousands, of homes this morning," he said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, authorized the use of federal funds to help fight the fire. The authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay for up to 75 percent of the firefighting costs.

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