, April 28, 2008 (ENS) - The first big California wildfire of the season broke out Saturday afternoon north of Sierra Madre, about 20 miles northeast of Los Angeles as California baked in record temperatures.
Search and rescue personnel alerted campers and hikers in the area, evacuating 350 on Saturday and on Sunday morning evacuating a wedding party who had hiked into the remote area for their ceremony.
Fire burns in the hills north of Sierra Madre before dawn this morning. (Photo by Simon Burrow)
About 1,000 residents were evacuated from about 200 homes in the upper part of Sierra Madre, most taking shelter with friends and family and about 50 people sheltering with the Red Cross at the Hart Park House, 222 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.
Burning in chapparal and lightly forested areas in steep terrain, the fire spread today and now has burned 538 acres north of Sierra Madre. While fire officials said Sunday night that the blaze was 30 percent contained, this evening they put the containment figure at only 21 percent.
About 234 acres of the blaze are on National Forest System land within the Angeles National Forest, and 304 acres are within the boundary of the City of Sierra Madre.
Hundreds of firefighters from all over the state have helped battle the blaze, said Sierra Madre Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Bamberger. There are 699 firefighters now at the scene. Two minor injuries to firefighters were reported.
The western boundary of the evacuations in Sierra Madre was extended to Michillinda Avenue at the boundary between Sierra Madre and Pasadena today.
Mandatory evacuations were lifted this afternoon for residents living in the area east of Camarillo Street and north of Grandview Avenue.
Authorities asked residents of evacuated areas who need to go to their homes to retrieve medications, and other personal belongings to contact the officer in charge in their neighborhood, who will provide an escort to their homes.
All Sierra Madre schools were closed today, but the public schools are expected to reopen on Tuesday. All other schools in Sierra Madre will remain closed.
Santa Anita Canyon Road, also called Chantry Flat Road, which accesses the Angeles National Forest, is closed.
The cause of the fire is not known, but investigating officers believe it may be arson. They have marked off an area near Santa Anita Blvd., about a mile north of the outlying homes, as a crime scene.
The fire was not expected to be fully contained before Friday, officials said.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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