Colby Fire: Some evacuations lifted in Azusa as firefight continues

Some Azusa residents forced out of their homes by the Colby fire will be allowed to return Friday afternoon, though officials said one community would remain closed off.

Azusa police and L.A. County sheriff's officials said residents living north of Sierra Madre Avenue between Yucca Ridge and Ranch Road -- including the Crystal Canyon condo complex and the Mirador housing tract -- would be allowed to return to their homes at 4 p.m.


But mandatory evacuations were still in effect for Mountain Cove, officials said. It was unclear when they  would be lifted.

The fire has charred an estimated 1,700 acres since it sparked near neighboring Glendora shortly before 6 a.m. Thursday.  At last count, officials said it was 30% contained, having destroyed at least five homes and damaging 17 other structures.

At least three people, including two firefighters, were injured, officials said.

Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said the fire began when three men started an illegal campfire near Colby Trail and Glendora Mountain Road because they were cold. They were allegedly tossing paper into the fire when a gust of wind “just blew embers all over the place,” Staab said.

The men -- 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 Thursday on suspicion of recklessly starting a fire. Staab said Friday they would be charged in federal court, though federal prosecutors have not released any details.

Strong Santa Ana winds initially fueled the fire Thursday morning, causing it to quickly spread and sending up a massive plume of smoke visible across much of the region. But the winds died down later in the day, allowing firefighters to stop the forward spread of the fire and reducing the risk to many residents in the area.

Marc Peebles, a spokesman for a Southern California incident management team, said crews had spent much of Friday building and reinforcing containment lines. The weather had been "favorable," he said, with winds mostly staying about 5 mph.

But officials were still faced with steep terrain and dry brush, he said, and were keeping a close eye out for any hot spots.

Officials were expected to provide updated information on personnel and containment at a 5 p.m. news conference.

Meanwhile, many residents spent Friday picking up the pieces. Glendora residents had been allowed back into their homes Thursday evening, and the handful of schools there that had been closed had returned to a normal schedule Friday.

Firefighters continued to patrol Glendora neighborhoods Friday, as smoke wafted from scorched trees and bushes. Insurance company cars wound their way up the hillside as crews from Southern California Edison replaced power poles destroyed by the blaze.

Some residents walked their dogs and jogged, attempting to get back to a normal routine. Others were annoyed by those who had come into their neighborhoods to see the destroyed homes -- one man stood in the middle of Conifer Road, trying to deter looky-loos from coming through the quiet neighborhood where a home had burned.

Twitter: @katemather