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Bobcat fire nearly doubles in size, but moves away from cities, towns near San Gabriel Mountains

Angeles National Forest firefighters get weather readings as the Bobcat fire burns along Highway 39.
Angeles National Forest firefighters Jessy Alvarez, left, and Gabriel Ayers get weather readings as the Bobcat fire burns along Highway 39.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Although the Bobcat fire nearly doubled in size Wednesday, the blaze moved northeast and away from the cities and towns in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains that only a day earlier had been poised to evacuate.

By Wednesday evening, one of those communities, Arcadia, had lifted a voluntary evacuation warning, although fire officials warned that capricious Santa Ana winds could at any moment pick up and drive the flames in an unexpected direction.

The Bobcat Fire, which ignited Sunday above Azusa in the Angeles National Forest, has burned 19,796 acres and was 0% contained as of 7 p.m. Wednesday, officials said. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Fears of a significant spread of the Bobcat fire dissipated as Santa Ana winds failed to materialize, but nearby foothill communities remain on high alert.

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Winds remained calm overnight and through the day Wednesday. Although fire crews had feared Santa Ana gusts whipping the blaze toward the foothill cities, the winds that did blow Wednesday pushed the flames east, away from homes and structures, officials wrote in an evening update.

Although wind conditions appeared to have steadied Wednesday, officials warned that residents should have evacuation plans in place, organize their emergency evacuation supplies and have essential personal belongings easily accessible. Vehicles should be fully fueled, facing out in driveways and ready to leave.

Ash falls on a parked car as the Bobcat fire burns in the distance Wednesday morning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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“With these Santa Ana winds, you never know when they’re going to turn,” said Linda Attalla, a representative of the Arcadia Fire Department. “Just be ready, and know if it gets down to it, you’re going to have a fireman beating on your door telling you to get moving.”

The fire is one of dozens burning across the state, including at least six in Southern California, said Christine McMorrow, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Combined, the statewide fires have burned more than 2 million acres in what has been called the most destructive wildfire season on record in terms of acreage.

“We do still have a red flag warning through this evening,” McMorrow said Wednesday. “The winds are still a concern.”

Evacuations have been ordered for residents and Angeles National Forest visitors from Big Santa Anita Canyon, Mt. Wilson, San Gabriel Canyon and Monrovia Canyon, and national forests in the region remain closed.

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Maria Taylor, another representative of the Arcadia Fire Department, said smoke and ash were contributing to unhealthy air quality. She said the department is fully staffed, with all reserve engines ready should the fire escalate.

“We are actively monitoring the situation,” she said. “The main message that we have is get a plan, and plan ahead.”

Residents with large animals such as horses or cattle are being urged to begin moving those animals. Limited accommodations are available at the Fairplex fairground in Pomona for livestock and other large animals.

They were seeking fresh air, solitude and life away from coronavirus lockdowns. Instead, they got caught in a firestorm, some rescued by helicopter.

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The Red Cross has set up a temporary evacuation point at Santa Anita racetrack. At least three residents have accessed the facility, which is being used as a rest site for residents to gather and assess their needs and for the relief agency to present lodging options, said Red Cross Los Angeles communications officer Marium Mohiuddin. More evacuees are expected, she said.

“We are asking people to come there so we can help them get to more comfortable places,” Mohiuddin said, noting that the Red Cross is working with nearby hotels and shelters to arrange potential accommodations.

“Wildfires go fast, so just make sure you’re ready,” she said.

Smoke advisories related to the Bobcat and El Dorado fires have been extended for most of Los Angeles County and parts of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said Tuesday night on Twitter.

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Forecasts call for continued warm and dry weather, as well as gusty wind conditions, according to the National Weather Service, although “diminishing winds are possible” by Thursday, which may bring some relief.


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