AZUSA (CBSLA) – Evacuation orders were lifted late Thursday night for the 1,500-acre Ranch Fire burning in the San Gabriel Mountains in the Angeles National Forest north of Azusa, but a hot spell forecast for the weekend was creating challenges for firefighters Friday.
“The priority today with what resources we have is to establish good control and knock out all the heat along the community,” Seneca Smith, spokesperson for the Angeles National Forest, said.
The Ranch Fire broke out a little before 3 p.m. Thursday near North San Gabriel Canyon Road and North Ranch Road and spread quickly.
Within about 30 minutes, Azusa police issued evacuation orders for Mountain Cove residents living south of Highwood Court. About 15 minutes later, they were extended to all residents living north and west of Turning Leaf and Boulder Ridge.
By 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the fire had grown to more than 600 acres, and just before 8 p.m. it was reported to have spread to 3,000 acres, with no containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
However, on Friday morning, USFS spokesman Andrew Mitchell told CBSLA that the fire’s size had been revised down to 2,500 acres. And, on Friday afternoon, the fire was downgraded to 1,500 acres after firefighters were able to more accurately assess the fire’s size after some of the smoke cleared.
About 200 Angeles National Forest and L.A. County Fire Department personnel responded and battled the blaze, successfully protecting homes. As the main body of the fire began moving away from homes towards the Angeles National Forest, mandatory evacuation orders were lifted at 11 p.m.
“We owe our homes to our firemen that protected us,” one grateful woman told CBSLA.
Residents in several surrounding neighborhoods awoke Friday to find large amounts of ash on the ground.
“We usually get a smoke column build up, and as we’ve seen in the past, with large smoke columns you’ll get what we call fallout,” Smith said. “And essentially, you can get ash fall like we saw last night around this community. And that can potentially put spot fires out.”
No homes have been damaged so far and there were no reported injuries. A federal incident management team was being brought in Friday to provide both air support and elite hot shot crews to scale steep terrain.
Highway 39 remains shut down in both directions in the area.
Although flames flared up along a hillside just above Highwood Court and Mountain Laurel Way overnight Thursday, no new evacuation orders were issued.
Neighbors told CBSLA there were unconfirmed reports the fire may have sparked during a fight between two men at a homeless encampment. However, officials say the cause remains unknown and is under investigation.