Monrovia fire 85 percent contained, all evacuation orders lifted

All remaining evacuation orders in Monrovia were lifted Sunday afternoon as firefighters had surrounded a brush fire that charred more than 100 acres in the foothills at the northern edge of town since Saturday morning.
Monrovia Fire Chief Chris Donovan announced all residents still evacuated due to the Madison Fire were free to return home shortly after 3 p.m. Only residents were being allowed into the recently evacuated neighborhoods in case the wind should pick up and again.
“The fire has been held to 125 acres,” he said. Firefighters had drawn solid containment lines around 85 percent of the wildfire, he said, leaving only a small portion on the eastern flank uncontrolled.
Though estimates Saturday placed the size of the fire, which ignited shortly after 11 a.m. along the 300 block of Madison Avenue, at 175 acres, the estimate was revised Sunday, Monrovia spokeswoman Jennifer McLain said.
“We do have crews continuing to work the fire line as we speak,” Donovan said Sunday afternoon. Twenty fire engines and 10 hand crews remained assigned to the fire, which was burning in steep, tough terrain, with a water-dropping helicopter on stand-by.
“At the height of the incident, over 400 homes were directly threatened by the fire, and due to the hard work of Monrovia Firefighters and mutual aid partners from across Southern California, no homes were damaged or destroyed,” Donovan said.
Overnight, three to five patrol crews would continue working the fire, Donovan said. Today, crews were expected to finish building the containment lines in the form of a 200-foot-thick layer of fire retardant foam between the wildfire and nearby neighborhoods.
The fire was largely smouldering Sunday, Donavoan said, although “we did have some spot fires.”
Though the weather continued to be cooperative Sunday, an increase in wind remained a concern.
“If we get a significant wind, it can pick up embers and carry them over the containment line,” Donovan said.
About 200 homes were evacuated at the peak of the fire Saturday, McLain said.
“They were pretty aggressive using foam to protect the homes,” McLain said.
“Residents will see smoke in the area from active fire, and you might also spot fire in open areas,” city officials said in a written statement. “Hand crews will be working in the hills, and fire engines will be in neighborhoods supporting this work.”
In an ironic twist, the fire is blamed on a fire prevention effort, officials said.
It was sparked by a gardener’s power tool, Donovan said. The homeowner had hired the gardener to perform weed abatement ahead of fire season.
Having discussed with other fire chiefs the weather and vegetation conditions in the area, “We are anticipating a very bad fire season,” Donovan said.
And to have such a large fire so early in the season seemed to indicate that prediction was accurate.
“I think we’re in for a long road.”

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