AZUSA (CNS) - The Ranch2 Fire burning near Azusa is 81% contained today after scorching 4,237 acres, and firefighters are toiling to reinforce fire lines and extinguish remaining hot spots near the perimeter.
Containment lines were preventing the blaze from spreading while unburned vegetation within the lines in places continued to smolder and burn out. Vegetation remained at critical dryness levels, U.S. Forest Service officials said.
Crews have been focusing on building containment lines on the western edge of the fire between Fern and Cold Creek canyons, fire officials said.
Good relative humidity recovery was expected to help slow fire activity, officials said.
Eight cases of heat-related injuries to firefighters were reported, with four able to return to work. The others were hospitalized and released, the Forest Service said.
The number of firefighters assigned to the blaze was reduced from 412 to 284 on Sunday.
The estimated time for full containment is August 28.
All evacuation orders have been lifted, but the following road closures remain in effect:
-- San Gabriel Canyon Road/Highway 39: closed at Northbound Highway 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 last week 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 last 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 Aug. 16 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.''
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