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Forest Brush Fire North of Sylmar Out of Control

Times Staff Writers

A fast-moving brush fire burned out of control in the Angeles National Forest north of Sylmar late Sunday, destroying more than 2,200 acres, threatening some structures and leaving an ominous cloud of black smoke looming over the San Fernando Valley.

There were no injuries, no evacuations and no structural damage. However, several buildings--including a Los Angeles County fire camp and a U.S. Forest Service ranger station--were threatened for a time, Los Angeles County firefighters said.

About 500 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service, the county, and other jurisdictions--assisted by four water-dropping helicopters and five airplane tankers until nightfall--battled the blaze, authorities said.

“It’ll burn through the night and probably into Monday morning,” county firefighter Stan Pearson said. “We’ll either catch it, or we’ll chase it. It’s burning some areas that haven’t burned in a real long, long time. Some parts up there haven’t burned in 60 years.”

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Three Los Angeles men were arrested in connection with the blaze after they allegedly started an illegal campfire, Sheriff’s Lt. Ed Chenal said. The suspects--Tomas S. Camacho, 26, Juan R. De Dios, 31, and Leonides O. Lopez, 37--were booked for investigation of unlawfully causing a fire in a forest, a felony punishable by up to six years in prison. They were jailed in lieu of $2,500 bail.

“It appears at this point in time that it may have been more accidental than on purpose,” Chenal said. “It appears they may have been up there to poach deer.”

At the opposite end of the national forest, about 260 firefighters worked in steep terrain to get a handle on a 125-acre blaze north of La Verne, authorities said. There was no expected containment time.

About 160 miles to the northwest, firefighters battling a 600-acre fire in Sequoia National Park were optimistic that a buffer zone cleared in a previous controlled burn would save the magnificent trees in the three-square-mile Giant Forest, park spokesman Bill Tweed said. The ancient trees are considered the largest living things on Earth.

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“These are certainly one of the biological wonders of the world,” Tweed said. “The fire will inevitably reach the edge of the Giant Forest. We think that because of the steps taken, we can prevent it from going into the forest.”

A careless camper or angler was suspected to have caused the blaze, Tweed said.

In Riverside County, fire charred 800 acres near Hemet, but firefighters were gaining the upper hand and containment was anticipated by dawn today, the California Department of Forestry reported.


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