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Crews hope to make progress on Azusa wildfire before winds blow

September 3, 2012 | 11:04 am

Air tanker drops fire retardant on Williams fire above Azusa.
Firefighters were trying to gain headway on a wildfire raging out of control in the Angeles National Forest before expected gusty winds begin to blow Monday afternoon. 

Winds at the Williams fire above Azusa were light Monday morning but were expected to gust up to 20 mph later in the day, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The forward progress of the blaze, which had scorched about 4,000 acres, was slow as flames were burning primarily along the flanks, said Nathan Judy, spokesman for the Angeles National Forest. 

PHOTOS: Brush fire burns in the Angeles National Forest

"The problem right now is that it's so inaccessible," Judy said of the blaze.

He said crews on the ground were struggling to cut containment lines and douse flames in "steep, nasty terrain" with slopes ranging from 40 to 80 degrees.

"The slope up there is just incredible," he said in a telephone interview from the fire area. 

About 400 firefighters were battling the blaze, which was about 5% contained. In the air, six tanker planes and eight helicopters were making repeated water and fire-retardant drops on the blaze.

Flames were between the 2,500- and 3,000-foot elevation level in medium-to-heavy brush that has not burned in about 15 years, officials said. 

The fire broke out Sunday afternoon about 3-1/2 miles east of California 39 and prompted officials to evacuate visitors and residents from campgrounds, picnic areas and a mobile home park at Camp Williams on the east fork of the San Gabriel River. The facilities typically have up to 12,000 visitors during the Labor Day weekend.

On Monday, the entire San Gabriel Canyon was shut down by authorities, who opened an evacuation center at Glendora High School at 1600 E. Foothill Blvd.

No injuries were reported, officials said, and the cause was under investigation.


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Angeles National Forest fire scorches more than 3,600 acres

— Robert J. Lopez


Photo: Tanker plane drops retardant on the Williams fire. Credit: Rick McClure / Associated Press