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Angeles National Forest fire grows to 1,000 acres; campgrounds evacuated

September 2, 2012 |  8:39 pm

Angeles National Forest fire
A forest fire that continues to burn in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Azusa forced the evacuation of several campgrounds and other facilities that typically attract up to 12,000 visitors on Labor Day weekend, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman said.

John Wagner, an assistant public affairs officer for the forest service, said he believed the campers in the wilderness area off California 39 were out of harm’s way.

“It’s our understanding they have been evacuated,” he said.

The blaze, which began about 2:15 p.m., had spread to 1,000 acres as of 8 p.m., Wagner said.

It was pushing north in steep terrain toward the Sheep Mountain Wilderness Area, he said.

Wagner said there had been no reported injuries or property damage.

The fire began along East Fork Road north of Azusa, about 3 ½ miles east of California 39, Wagner said. The cause remains under investigation.

More than 200 firefighters were battling the blaze with the assistance of eight air tankers.

The East Fork of the San Gabriel River off California 39 on holiday weekends, particularly in summer, is  full of visitors. It’s also a favorite destination for hikers and gold prospectors.

The area is patrolled by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol and U.S. Forest Service, which has jurisdiction over the 640,000-acre Angeles National Forest.

Hundreds of people live in trailers and cabins in the vicinity of Camp Williams Resort, which offers the only restaurant and campsite. On holiday weekends the area has always been a law enforcement challenge, particularly for a handful of Forest Service rangers in charge of keeping control of the area.

Last week, the area immediately east of  the Camp Williams Cafe was teeming with visitors who were cooling off in the creek and picnicking. Some of them, however, were cited by rangers for building bonfires beneath large signs that said such fires were prohibited.


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Photo: Angeles National Forest fire. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times