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4,000-acre brush fire shuts down San Gabriel Canyon on Labor Day

September 3, 2012 |  9:25 am

Fire crews try to contain Williams fire in Angeles National Forest.
Fire crews were battling a 4,000-acre brush fire Monday morning in rugged terrain in the Angeles National Forest as the blaze forced officials to shut down the popular San Gabriel Canyon to Labor Day visitors.

The Williams fire was just 5% contained as hundreds of firefighters from several agencies were trying to stop the forward progress of the flames, which sent a towering plume of smoke that could be seen for miles.

Flames Monday morning were threatening mobile homes and other structures at the Camp Williams resort on the east fork of the San Gabriel River, the U.S. Forest Service said.  

PHOTOS: Brush fire burns in the Angeles National Forest

The camp, along with other nearby campgrounds and picnic areas, typically has up to 12,000 visitors during the Labor Day weekend.

Officials Monday morning had set up an evacuation center at Glendora High School at 1600 E. Foothill Blvd.

As hotshot crews worked to cut containment lines, nine air tankers and four helicopters were making repeated water and fire-retardant drops on the flames, officials said. The blaze was raging in medium-to-heavy brush and chaparral and moving north toward the Sheep Mountain Wilderness area.

Fire commanders on the ground were hoping to take advantage of light winds, which were about 2 mph, and relative humidity that was around 30%, officials said.

The blaze broke out Sunday afternoon about 3-1/2 miles east of California 39 in an area north of Azusa. The cause was under investigation, the Forest Service said.

Evacuations were ordered shortly after the blaze broke out.

Jill Coverdale watched flames burning Sunday at the top of Shoemaker Canyon Road by Camp Williams.

"It was unreal," said Coverdale, who was among a number of residents who refused to heed the evacuation order. "The flames were huge, and the campground was packed with people."


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— Robert J. Lopez


Photo: Helicopter fights the Williams fire Sunday afternoon. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times