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Fire crews continue fighting Williams blaze in Angeles forest

September 3, 2012 |  9:45 pm

Fire crews continue fighting Williams blaze in Angeles forest
Authorities battling a wildfire in the Angeles National Forest more than doubled their deployments Monday, with 700 firefighters attacking the blaze with air tankers and helicopters.

But it will probably take several more days to fully contain the fire, which has burned 3,600 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Azusa, said John D. Wagner, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. He said the steep terrain made firefighting difficult. The blaze remained about 5% contained late Monday.

“It’s not really accessible by foot, so we have to do air drops over the area,” Wagner said.

PHOTOS: Brush fire burns in the Angeles National Forest

Federal and Los Angeles County firefighters used an air taker to drop 10,000 gallons of fire retardant on the blaze, dubbed the Williams fire, which was bounded by Susanna Canyon on the west, Shoemaker Canyon on the east, Rattlesnake Peak on the north and Williams Canyon on the south. They also deployed six helicopters, 30 engines, two bulldozers and 48 hand crews, Wagner said.

Wagner said three forest service workers and two L.A. County inmates on an organized fire crew suffered minor injuries. One was a sprained ankle and the others were heat-related, he said.

The blaze began about 3 1/2 miles east of California 39, midway between Camp Williams Resort and Burro Canyon Shooting Park, Wagner said. The fire forced the evacuation of popular campgrounds known to attract as many as 12,000 visitors on holidays and weekends. No structures had been burned.

A hiker stranded in the vicinity of the fire was airlifted to safety, according to the L.A. County Fire Department.

Officials said the fire might not be fully contained until next Monday. Full containment would require crews to dig out, by hand, a fireproof strip of bare earth around the perimeter of the blaze.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation. A burned car was found in the area, officials said, but it was unclear whether the car was the source of the fire or had been consumed by the blaze.

Hundreds of people live in and around Camp Williams Resort, which includes a campground, a mobile home park and a restaurant. Evacuations were suggested there too, but "a few people have decided that they are going to stay," Wagner said.

"I don’t think the Sheriff’s Department is going to physically haul people out," he said.

Residents appeared to be unfazed by the fire.

Susan King-Morgan, 51, and her husband, Chuck Morgan, 68, sat casually on lawn chairs and watched as one helicopter after another dumped water on flames burning along a mountainside about half a mile from Camp Williams, their home for 10 years. The couple declined the suggestion to evacuate, just as they have for three previous fires, they said.

"If we're here, our place will be safer," King-Morgan said.


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