175-Acre Monrovia Brush Fire Prompts Mandatory Evacuations - NBC Bay Area

175-Acre Monrovia Brush Fire Prompts Mandatory Evacuations

Full containment of the blaze was expected Sunday, and the city asked for residents' patience



    Monrovia Fire Forces Evacuations

    A wildfire in the hills above Monrovia was still burning Saturday night. Some residents who had been evacuated were returning home. Jane Yamamoto reports from Monrovia for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, 2013. (Published Sunday, April 21, 2013)

    A fast-moving brush fire burned through the foothills of Monrovia on Saturday, prompting a mandatory evacuation order and help from the Los Angeles Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service.

    As the blaze grew from 10 acres to 175 acres in a matter of hours, voluntary evacuations became mandatory in the steep San Gabriel Mountain foothills as of 3 p.m., Monrovia Fire Department officials said.

    At mid-afternoon, about 200 homes were included in an order that affected homeowners on 20 streets. The city said in a tweet at about 7:30 p.m. that officials would discuss lifting the evacuation order in coming hours.

    The order was lifted for all but four streets at about 9:15 p.m., the city tweeted.

    "We have old, dry brush out there. It's 55 years old, or as much as 100 years old. Combine that with inaccessible areas, this has been a topography and fuel-driven fire," said Monrovia spokeswoman Jennifer McLain.

    The blaze had grown to 175 acres as of 7 p.m., according to fire officials. No structures had been damaged, and no civilians had been injured. One fire-fighter sustained a heat-related injury, city officials said.

    By about 9:45 p.m., the blaze was 50 percent contained, the city said in a Facebook post that asked for residents who still live in evacuation areas to be patient.

    "There is no imminent danger. Some flames are still burning, primarily off of Lotone and Heather Heights," Fire Chief Chris Donovan said.

    The fire was first reported at 11:15 a.m. at 322 N. Madison Ave. (map). Smoke rising hundreds of feet into the air could be seen across the San Gabriel Valley during daytime Saturday.

    Homeowner Glen Owens said a gardener he had hired to do brush clearance was knocking frantically at his door as the fire broke out.

    "I look out ... and there's flames and smoke all over the place," Owens said.

    Donovan told NBC4 a gardener's power tool accidentally sparked the blaze, but later said the "exact cause" was undetermined. In a city YouTube video, he said the blaze spread rapidly uphill, adding that full containment was expected Sunday.

    "We'll be working through the night," Donovan said.

    Firefighting airplanes, at least 125 firefighters, 65 fire engines, helicopters and ambulances were working to control the blaze, fire officials said mid-afternoon. The Los Angeles Fire Department sent five of their engines and a helicopter to help battle the flames.

    Meanwhile Saturday afternoon, in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles firefighters battled a 4-acre grass fire, as seen at right, near Victory Boulevard and Haskell Avenue in Van Nuys -- near Woodley Park (map). At one point, all southbound lanes of the 405 Freeway at Victory Boulevard were shut during the blaze.

    A small wildfire was also burning near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

    In Monrovia, Donovan asked via the city’s Facebook page for a mandatory evacuation of homes on the following streets: Heather Heights, Alta Vista, Melrose, Magnolia, Hidden Valley, Mesa Circle, Sky Way, and Patrician Way.

    The city updated the list just before 4:30 p.m. to include 10 additional streets: Crescent, El Nido, Highland from Foothill, Franklin, Scenic 400 and 500 blocks, Cloverleaf, Lotone, Hidden Valley, Ridgeside, Briar Cliff, Golden Hills, and everything west of Canyon Park north of Scenic.

    At about 9:15 p.m., the city said the order was lifted for all but Highland, Briar Cliff, Hidden Valley and Alta Vista.

    Evacuated residents were directed to a shelter at the Monrovia Public Library at Myrtle and Palm avenues.

    The Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA posted on Facebook that the organization was offering free boarding for evacuees' pets.

    The Monrovia Police Department said on the Facebook page streets north of Foothill Boulevard were closed to through traffic from Lincoln Place to Myrtle Avenue.

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    NBC4's Jane Yamamoto contributed to this report.