AZUSA (CNS) - High temperatures forecast today could make the fight to control the Ranch 2 Fire in Azusa additionally arduous for firefighters and make the flames harder to put out in already dry vegetation.
As of midday Sunday, the fire had grown to 2,256 acres and was just 7% contained, according to fire officials. There were 286 firefighters assigned to the blaze.
A homeless man suspected of intentionally starting the blaze surrendered to authorities. Osmin Palencia, 36, was in custody at the Azusa Police Department jail. Police did not release further information except to say that the investigation was still active and urged anyone with information about the fire's origin to call 626- 812-3200.
Palencia also had four misdemeanor arrests over the last two years, three by Azusa police and one by sheriff's deputies, according to jail records.
Palencia's last known residence was an encampment in the Azusa Canyon Riverbed, police said.
A witness who lives in a riverbed near Mountain Cove told NBC4 an argument between two homeless men sparked the fire.
“There were two gentlemen in the back (of a homeless encampment) fighting and they were arguing over a bike and one guy said he'd burn the other guy out, and things got escalated to where the fire started,'' evacuee Jimmy Pockets told the station. “Ran over to try to put it out but it just took off so quick.''
“Strong high pressure over the southwest will maintain very hot and dry conditions over the fire area for the next several days,'' fire officials said in a statement. An excessive heat warning was in effect through Wednesday evening.
All earlier evacuations orders have been lifted, but the following road closures remained in effect:
-- San Gabriel Canyon Road/Highway 39: closed at Northbound Hwy 39 at Sierra Madre Avenue (southbound Highway 39 is closed at East Fork Road)
-- Glendora Mountain Road: closed from Big Dalton to East Fork
-- Glendora Ridge Road: closed from Glendora Mountain Road to Mt. Baldy Road
-- Santa Anita Canyon Road: closed from Arno Drive to Chantry Flats Road
The Angeles National Forest changed its Forest Fire Danger Level from very high to extreme, and moved into full fire restrictions including prohibiting campfires in developed sites. Cooking stoves, lanterns and similar devices that use propane, white gas or similar fuels were prohibited.
The Ranch 2 Fire was reported about 2:45 p.m. Thursday near North San Gabriel Canyon Road and North Ranch Road, according to the Azusa Police Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department, which called in a second-alarm response.
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