Monday, April 28, 2008

Chantry Flat Wildfire near Sierra Madre Rages On

All photos by 'Flora' / Sierra Madre-Arcadia

SIERRA MADRE, Calif. - Hundreds of fire crews battled a wildfire that started in the Angeles National Forest about 10 miles northeast of Pasadena that forced the evacuation of a scout camp and left hikers stranded in the biggest of several blazes on a hot, dry weekend in Southern California. It has also forced evacuations to 1000 residents in and around the hillside community.

The fire had grown to 400 acres by Sunday, but firefighters hoped to have it contained within 5 to 7 days, according to Elisa Weaver of the Arcadia Fire Department. Sunday afternoon's fire assault consisted mainly of four helicopter unitd and three fixed wing tankers dumping colored retardant on the 30 year old underbrush of the hillside because ground fire crews cannot navigate the steep terrain. The fire is concentrated on the steep canyon known as Chantry Flats, a popular hiking and biking trail with steep terrain.

The blaze was reported just after 1:40 p.m. in a wooded area off Santa Anita Canyon Road, Weaver said. 400 Fire crew personnel are fighting the ground assault to protect structures. One outhouse was destroyed but no injuries were reported. The fire is officially known as the 'Chantry Flats Fire', which is the name of the canyon designated a "Recreation Area" within the Angeles National Forest, about three miles into Big Santa Anita Canyon, and is closely associated with the town of Sierra Madre, CA.

The flat itself houses a large public picnic area, and is the starting point for several historic trails of the San Gabriel Mountains, including the 28.5 mile Gabrielino Trail. The US Forest Service estimates the road to Chantry as the third busiest entry into the Angeles, next to CA State Highways 2 and 39. Fire Crews have made a stand on Grandview avenue between Santa Anita Avenue in the east and Lima Street in the West to protect the houses at Sierra Madre. Ash fallout reached areas as far as Pasadena in the southwest.

Flames brought the evacuation of the Trask Boy Scout camp and left about 100 hikers were evacuated from Chantry Flats, Weaver said. A newly-wed couple were among the rescued evacuees who were escorted down by Sheriff's deputies and involved a few helicopter rescues.

Most of the Boy Scouts had already left the camp by the time the evacuation was ordered, Weaver said.

The fire was moving slowly northward, away from homes in nearby Sierra Madre and Arcadia. Fire crews were aided by a dozens of fire engines, three water tankers and four helicopters.

Temperatures in parts of Southern California hit the mid-90s Saturday afternoon, with mild but extremely dry winds which came from the south-southwest of the fire and aided in driving the fire uphill from the threatened homes. Evacuees are being housed at First Congregational Church in Sierra Madre and also at Hart Senior Center. Fire officials have reported 30 percent containment and expect to fully extinguish the wildfire which have separated into four different hot spots in about 5 to 7 days depending on the weather condition.

compiled by Jay Fermin
photos by Flora - Sierra Madre
Source: AP News, with reports from Fire Command Center
Last Modified: Saturday, April 27, 2008 at 9:52 p.m.