- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

SIERRA MADRE, Calif. (AP) — Crews overcame a threatening flare-up during the night and worked today to halt a wildfire northeast of Los Angeles that has sent 1,000 people fleeing their homes.

Water-dropping aircraft were back in the air today to complement ground crews as more than 580 firefighters attacked the blaze above homes in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Calmer wind and rising humidity were expected to help, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Ed Gililland.

The blaze had charred 490 acres today, authorities said. Containment had fallen from 30 percent to 23 percent because the burst of wind during the night pushed flames past some containment lines and within yards of several houses. Firefighters watered down embers that drifted onto a few roofs.

Temperatures rose into the mid-80s before noon today.

“It’s a hot day and these are steep slopes,” said Sierra Madre fire information spokeswoman Barbara Croonquist. “And the fact that it’s so near the city makes it hard.”

All Sierra Madre schools canceled classes today, and at least 1,000 people had evacuated their homes in the foothills. Authorities said no homes had burned since the fire began Saturday.

“This is pretty serious. Some of these areas have not burned in over 40 years,” city spokeswoman Elisa Weaver said.

The blaze had been creeping northwest into the Angeles National Forest, Battalion Chief Tim Davis of the Forest Service said Sunday.

“It’s very steep, inaccessible terrain, and it’s very heavy brush,” Davis said at a news conference. “Very difficult and arduous labor for these crews. You can’t get bulldozers into the majority of where these fingers of fire run.”

Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, authorities said.

The blaze stranded 50 wedding party guests at a ranger station from Saturday until they were airlifted out by helicopter Sunday afternoon, Weaver said.

Investigators had not yet determined the cause of the fire.

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