Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Wildfire stops at LA suburbs as winds die down

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GLENDORA, Calif. — Santa Ana winds that fanned a campfire into a wildfire that destroyed five homes and threatened foothill neighborhoods east of Los Angeles relented Thursday afternoon, halting the blaze in its tracks.

The fire swept through 1,700 acres of brush in the San Gabriel Mountains early in the day but by nightfall it was no longer advancing and was 30 percent contained.

"The weather cooperated quite a bit today. We didn't get the wind … that we thought," Los Angeles County fire Deputy Chief John Tripp said.

Authorities planned to reopen evacuated Glendora neighborhoods, allowing back some of the 2,000 people ordered to leave the area.

However, fire engines would remain to guard the area overnight, he added.

The National Weather Service said a red-flag warning of extreme fire danger would remain in effect into this evening because of low humidity and the chance of winds gusting to 30 mph in the foothills and canyons.

The wildfire, which erupted early Thursday, damaged 17 homes, garages, barns and other buildings, Tripp said.

At least 10 renters were left homeless when the fire destroyed rental units on the historic grounds of a retreat that once was the summer estate of the Singer sewing machine family. Statues of Jesus and Mary stood unharmed near the blackened ruins. However, the main, 1920s mansion was spared.

"It's really a miracle that our chapel, our main house is safe," owner Jeania Parayno said.

Alex Larsen, 50, rented a room at the estate. The musician had lived there for about four years.

"All my possessions are toast, burned toast," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Two firefighters had minor injuries and a woman trying to fight the blaze near her home suffered a minor burn, Tripp said.

Three men in their 20s, including a homeless man, were arrested on suspicion of recklessly starting the blaze by tossing paper into a campfire in the Angeles National Forest, just north of Glendora.

Glendora Chief Tim Staab said the men were trying to keep warm and the wildfire appears to have been an accident.

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