GLENDORA (CBSLA.com) — Three men were arrested Thursday in connection with a 1,700-acre brush fire in Glendora that destroyed at least five homes and prompted the mandatory evacuation of 3,700 residents.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the National Forest Service were battling the fire, which was first reported at 5:40 a.m. in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest.
“At 6:34 am, a Glendora Police Officer detained two subjects running in a flood control wash channel in the 800 block of E. Palm Ave.,” Glendora police said. “U.S. Forestry contacted a third subject in the area of Glendora Mountain Road and Colby Trail around 8:37 am.”
The three suspects, 23-year-old Jonathan Jarrell of Irwindale, 22-year-old Clifford Henry Jr. of Glendora and 21-year-old transient Steven Aguirre, allegedly started a campfire early Thursday morning when the wind picked up and sparked the rapidly spreading Colby Fire. They were booked on suspicion of recklessly starting a fire and were being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
“Reportedly, they were up , they had set a campfire,” Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said. “They were tossing papers into the campfire and a breeze — reportedly — a breeze had kicked up and set this fire.”
Staab said all three men were “apologetic.”
“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 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.”
About 800 fire personnel and law enforcement, including 16 strike teams, more than 100 engines, eight fixed wing aircraft and seven helicopters, were called in to battle the flames. Cal Fire, Southern California Edison and the California Highway Patrol were assisting with resources. The fire was 30 percent contained as of 10:30 p.m., according to L.A. County Fire officials.
“We’re fighting this fire extremely aggressively both on the ground and in the air,” L.A. County Fire inspector Scott Miller said.
At least five single-family homes have been destroyed, and 17 additional buildings and homes were damaged, including a guest house on the property of the Singer Mansion.
Three people were injured – a woman who was hit by a burning palm frond and two firefighters, one of whom suffered an ankle injury.
A smoke advisory was issued for the Los Angeles County, and the city of Glendora officially declared a state of emergency around 12:40 p.m.
All mandatory evacuation orders in Glendora have been lifted, and those residents are now being allowed to return back to their homes. Highway 39 remains closed.
Evacuation orders affecting 880 structures and between 1,700 and 2,000 people remain in place in Azusa, police say.
The fire comes as the Southland braced for another day of warm, windy and dry conditions. Thursday was the fifth straight day the area has been under a Red Flag Warning, which was extended through Friday.