• Firefighters Work to Protect Homes in Monrovia

    MONROVIA (CNS) – Firefighting aircraft were called in to protect homes in northwest Monrovia today, as a brushfire covering an estimated 175 acres sent a huge cloud skyward about a mile-and-a-half from a big crowd at Santa Anita Race Track.

    Twenty-five fire trucks, about 125 firefighters, one air tanker, three water-dropping helicopters and two bulldozers were working to protect homes in the steep San Gabriel Mountain foothills, adjacent to subdivisions and hillside residences in Arcadia and Monrovia, Monrovia Fire Chief Chris Donovan and Monrovia spokeswoman Jennifer McLain said.

    At 2 p.m., Monrovia firefighters began evacuating several neighborhoods. Donovan said winds were light, but said those winds normally shift direction in the afternoons in the foothills and 15 additional engines were being called in for structure protection.

    The Los Angeles Fire Department sent a strike team with five engines, 25 firefighters and a water-dropping helicopter to help the Monrovia Fire Department.

    As of 7 p.m., the brush fire had grown to “175 acres and was only 10 percent contained,” McLain told City News Service.

    “The growth of the fire from 18 acres to 175 acres has also forced fire officials to order mandatory evacuations from 15 Monrovia streets,” McLain said.

    Those streets included the Heather Heights, Alta Vista, Melrose, Patricia Way, Hidden Valley, Mesa Circle, Sky Way areas and all the streets north of Scenic Drive between Briar Cliff and Madison near the Arcadia border, McLain said, adding that about 200 homes had been evacuated as of 7 p.m.

    “An evacuation center has been set up at 119 W. Palm Ave.,” she added. “So far there have been no reports of injuries or structures burned.”

    “Containment of the fire has been hampered by the deep terrain and the amount of old, heavy brush that has burned,” McLain said. “The biggest concern going into the night is a down wind draft that might spark new hotspots or spread the fire.”

    The fire broke out near Hillcrest Boulevard and Madison Avenue at 11:06 a.m., and in 45 minutes it had spread to 10 acres in heavy brush. Winds were reported to be light and not a factor, but it nearly doubled in size in the next hour.

    Highly visible flames and smoke snarled traffic on the nearby Foothills (210) Freeway. Initial reports were that a gardener had accidentally sparked the blaze.

    A third-alarm was called as Monrovia firefighters brought in Los Angeles County crews to help battle the flames, on the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountain foothills about two miles northeast of the Santa Anita Race Track.

    Traffic on the 210 was snarled all afternoon, as flames and smoke were clearly visible north of the freeway, about eight miles east of Pasadena.

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