A family at the edge of the flames. Flannigan Family Blog.
SIERRA MADRE, Calif. (AP) _ Firefighters gained ground Sunday against an early seasonwildfirethat slowly chewed its way through dense brush near Los Angeles, forcing more than 1,000 people from homes in the foothills.
About 500 firefighters attacked the 400-acre blaze, aided by two helicopters and water-dropping air tankers, said city of Sierra Madre spokeswoman Elisa Weaver. Residents evacuated at least 550 homes Saturday night and Sunday, but none had burned.
“This is pretty serious,” Weaver said. “Some of these areas have not burned in over 40 years.”
By Sunday evening crews had the fire 30 percent contained, Sierra Madre spokesman James Carlson said. Light winds and rising humidity were aiding firefighters, who hoped to have the blaze fully contained within 4-7 days, Carlson said.
Helicopters made water drops on a steep ridge above Sierra Madre near Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park, about 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles and just east of Pasadena. A fixed-wing water tanker also dropped flame retardant.
Aircraft were also helping fire officials assess the movement of the blaze, which was being pushed northwest into Angeles National Forest, Batallion Chief Tim Davis of the Forest Service said.
“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.”
The blaze stranded 50 guests from a wedding party at the Chantry Flats ranger’s station on Saturday until they were airlifted out Sunday afternoon, Weaver said. It took five helicopter trips from the ranger’s station to the parking area where the wedding party’s cars were. The party then was escorted out by road.
The couple, Ken and Julie Grady, noticed the smoke not long after they had exchanged vows.