AZUSA (CNS) - The Ranch2 Fire burning near Azusa has scorched 4,237 acres and was 39% contained this morning as firefighters worked to mop up hot spots along the northern edge of the fire perimeter and reinforce firebreaks.
Firefighters cleaned up small portions of unburned vegetation near Pine Mountain and pushed to complete the firebreak line along the western flank of the fire between Fern and Cold Spring canyons, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
“Once this line is sufficiently tied in with the rest of our perimeter, small firing operations may take place as needed to reinforce our position,'' according to a statement from the Angeles National Forest information office. “Operations in these areas continue to be supported by spiked crews, with equipment resupply being provided by helicopters.''
Crews anticipated temperatures in the mid- to upper-90s today, with a slight chance of thunderstorms this afternoon, but more likely on Saturday, the Forest Service said.
“In spite of rugged terrain and high heat, progress continues to be made on all flanks,'' the statement said. `
Some 505 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, including 21 engines, 14 hand crews, four helicopters, one fixed-wing aircraft, seven dozers and one water tender.
All earlier evacuations orders have been lifted, but the following road closures remain 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; and
-- 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-restriction mode, including prohibiting camp fires in developed sites. Cooking stoves, lanterns and similar devices that use propane, white gas or similar fuels are prohibited.
No injuries or structural damage have been reported since the fire began about 2:45 p.m. Aug. 13 near North San Gabriel Canyon Road and North Ranch Road.
Felony charges were filed this week against a 36-year-old homeless man who allegedly set the blaze during an argument with a fellow transient. Osmin Palencia, who lives in a tent near the Mountain Cove community, could face up to 23 years in state prison if convicted of one count each of arson during a state of emergency and arson of a structure or forest, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Palencia -- who allegedly has a prior conviction from 2015 for dissuading a witness -- surrendered to authorities on Sunday and has remained behind bars since then. He is set to be arraigned Sept. 11 at the West Covina courthouse.
A witness who lives in a riverbed near Mountain Cove said he observed the argument that allegedly precipitated the fire, which came dangerously close to homes.
“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 NBC4. “Ran over to try to put it out, but it just took off so quick.''
Photo: Getty Images