- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

SIERRA MADRE, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire that broke out in a popular hiking area blackened the steep slopes of foothills outside Los Angeles and led to evacuation orders for residents of about 550 homes, authorities said yesterday.

Hundreds of people around Sierra Madre were told to flee Saturday night and yesterday as the wildfire continued to burn through dense brush, said Elisa Weaver of the Arcadia Fire Department.

Sierra Madre is about 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles and just east of Pasadena.

No homes were damaged, though a small outbuilding was destroyed, Miss Weaver said.

More than 400 firefighters were attacking the 350-acre fire, aided by two helicopters and expecting help from two water-dropping air tankers. The fire was little contained and was expected to burn for another two or three days.

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

The cause of the blaze remained under investigation. It was first reported Saturday afternoon in a wooded area a few miles northeast of Pasadena. It was windy at the time and unseasonably hot, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees.

The flames also brought the evacuation of a Boy Scout camp Saturday and left about 100 hikers stranded in a parking lot near Chantry Flats. Most of the Scouts already had left the camp by the time the evacuation was ordered, Miss Weaver said, and no injuries were reported.

Firefighters originally hoped to have the blaze contained yesterday, but gusting winds late Saturday night kept the fire burning out of control and creeping toward homes. The evacuation orders were issued shortly before 11 p.m. Two shelters were set up for evacuees.

Flames outlined steep ridges about a mile above Sierra Madre, a San Gabriel Mountains foothill community of about 11,000 that is popular with artists.

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