MONROVIA (CBSLA) – Evacuation warnings were in place for seven communities in the San Gabriel Foothills as crews Wednesday morning struggled to contain the Bobcat Fire burning in the Angeles National Forest amid blustering Santa Ana conditions.
The fire, which broke out Sunday, had grown to 19,796 acres as of around 8 p.m Wednesday morning with no containment, the U.S. Forest Service reports.
However, while the fire was moving northeast, away from homes, a Santa Ana wind event which began Tuesday was expected to pick up again Wednesday, bringing with it extremely low humidity and bone-dry conditions.
“Conditions will be favorable for rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior,” the National Weather Service reported.
The fire appeared to be flaring up on the ridges above the foothill communities, leaving many residents worried.
“It has the potential to come down the hill really, really quickly,” said Monrovia resident Gerald Pool, who was watering down his property with a house Wednesday. “Last night it was two hilltops away, and now it’s only one hilltop away.”
Monrovia resident Tracy Butts could see the flames from his home.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking at the moment,” he said as he watched crews surround his home to try to protect his neighborhood from the fire. “We have the truck loaded up, ready to go, [and] we’ve already got two or three loads out of here.”
Evacuation warnings which were first issued Monday night were expanded to include several more neighborhoods directly below the Bobcat Fire. The warnings now include Duarte, Monrovia, Pasadena, Altadena, Arcadia, Bradbury and Sierra Madre, USFS and the L.A. County Fire Department reported Tuesday night.
Residents in those areas should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice, with their cars packed and ready to go if the fire moves south into the foothills. However, the city of Sierra Madre went a step further, advising all residents north of Grandview Avenue to voluntarily evacuate.
An evacuation center has been established at the Santa Anita Park. Five families were also moved into hotels Tuesday night.
“It’s obviously not as hot as it has been, but we can’t take that for granted with the Santa Anas, it has that erratic behavior, so we have to be concerned,” L.A. County Fire Capt. David Dantic told CBSLA Tuesday.
About 400 firefighters are assigned to the blaze with the assistance of one water-dropping helicopter.
The blaze broke out a little after noon Sunday amid triple-digit temperatures near the Cogswell Dam and the West Fork Day Use area. California Highway Patrol officers helped campers evacuate quickly before sundown.
The fire is churning through thick vegetation and brush in steep terrain, some of which has not burned in more 60 years.
“The canyons that this fire has lined up with — Monrovia Canyon, Santa Anita Canyon, Little Santa Anita Canyon — those canyons have not burned since 1957 in the Monrovia Peak Fire,” Angeles National Forest Chief Robert Garcia said Monday.
The cause is under investigation.
The Angeles National Forest, meanwhile, was closed Monday night to the public along with all seven other national forests across California due to the wildfire risk. The closure will last through Sept. 14.
Highway 39 is closed at Old San Gabriel Canyon Road, while Highway 2 is closed east of La Canada-Flintridge to Islip Saddle.
Full containment is not expected until Oct. 15.