Firefighters work to contain the Colby fire

L.A. County fire hand crews continue mopping up the Colby fire on Saturday morning. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times / January 18, 2014)

Firefighters made significant gains in containing the Colby fire that raged on in Glendora and Azusa for two days, fueled by summer-like temperatures and high winds.

By Saturday, the fire was 61% contained, having burned 1,906 acres, destroyed five homes and damaged 17 other structures, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The last mandatory evacuation order was lifted at 6 p.m., when the 1,000 residents of the Mountain Cove community were allowed to return home. However, California 39 remains closed.

Firefighters worked steadily through the day Saturday and were able to double the containment area much more quickly than they had expected. Earlier, officials had said they hoped to reach 61% containment by Tuesday.

"The weather played a big part," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman L'Tanja Watson. "Temperatures were steady and the wind was not as unruly as it was the past few days. It was a good day to do some work."

Just before 6 a.m. Thursday, said Glendora police Chief Tim Staab, three men started an illegal campfire near Colby Trail and Glendora Mountain Road. The men were cold, he said, and were tossing paper into the fire when a gust of wind "just blew embers all over the place."

The suspects -- identified by police as Clifford Eugene Henry, 22, of Glendora; Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 23, of Irwindale; and Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, a Los Angeles transient -- were arrested within hours on suspicion of recklessly starting a fire. Staab said Friday the men would face federal charges, expected to be filed next week.

"It is difficult to tell where ash or soot from a wildfire will go, or how winds will affect the level of dust particles in the air, so we ask all individuals to be aware of their immediate environment and how it might affect their health," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county's public health officer.

 

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