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Cause of Southern California forest fire still a mystery

September 4, 2012 |  2:42 pm

As firefighters continue to battle a forest fire in the San Gabriel Canyon, investigators are still trying to determine the cause.

A burned car was found in the area, officials said, but it was unclear whether the car was the source of the fire.

The 3,600-acre brush fire continued to burn in the Angeles National Forest about 25 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday as crews worked in the steep, rugged terrain to bring the blaze under control.

PHOTOS: Crews battle brush fire in Angeles National Forest

Aided by four air tankers, 10 helicopters and a host of other equipment, nearly 800 firefighters battled the Williams fire, said L'Tanga Watson of the U.S. Forest Service.

The fire was about 15% contained and officials said it could take a week to bring it under control.

It churned through chaparral and other brush that hasn't burned in nearly two decades, according to fire officials. The abundance of fuel, along with high temperatures and slopes as steep as 80 degrees, have hampered firefighting efforts.

MAP: Williams fire perimeter

Crews planned to fly above the northeastern tip of the fire to better determine the area's terrain and potential fuel sources for the fire, Watson said. The most active front of the fire was moving toward Rattlesnake Canyon, but Watson said officials don't know much about the wilderness in the area.

"It's in a really rugged area — there are no trails, no roads," she said. "Everybody can go to Google Earth and take a look at it, but we need to see what exactly is there."

The fire began Sunday afternoon about three miles east of California 39 between Camp Williams Resort and Burro Canyon Shooting Park in the San Gabriel Mountains, north of Glendora. Its cause has not been determined.

The fire is burning through an area popular with hikers and campers. Several public areas in the vicinity have been evacuated, including campgrounds and picnic areas. About 25 people living in the area have decided to stay with their homes.

Four people — including at least two firefighters — were injured Monday, but none required hospitalization, the U.S. Forest Service said. A hiker stranded near the fire was airlifted to safety, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.


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— Kate Mather

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