Azusa neighborhood under voluntary evacuation; mandatory evacuations planned Thursday

AZUSA >> Officials strongly urged residents living beneath hillsides recently denuded by the Colby Fire to evacuate voluntarily Wednesday evening ahead of a major rainstorm that threatened to trigger mudslides and flooding.
“The Azusa Police Department is advising residents residing in on Ridge View Drive in Azusa to evacuate their residences as soon as possible,” police officials said in a written statement issued shortly before 6:30 p.m.
The voluntary evacuation orders preceded planned mandatory evacuation orders, which were set to take effect at noon Thursday, police said.
Police urged Ridge View Drive residents to heed the evacuation orders.
“Many deaths occur during a landslide when people are sleeping,” according to the police statement. As storm clouds moved toward the region late Wednesday, “We strongly encourage you to leave your residence.”
An evacuation center was set up at the Crowther Teen & Family Center, 241 W. Dawson Avenue in Glendora, officials said. The shelter can be reached by telephone at 626-914-2357.
Police pumped extra patrols into the affected neighborhood to protect the property of evacuated residents, officials added.

Three accused of beating, robbing teen in Azusa

AZUSA — Police arrested two men and a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of beating and robbing a 17-year-old boy in Azusa Wednesday.
Raymundo Gallegos, 20, John Medrano, 19, and a 16-year-old boy, all from Azusa, were booked on suspicion of robbery following the 5:50 p.m. incident at Orange Avenue and Crescent Drive, Azusa police Lt. Steve Hunt said.
Officers responded to what was initially reported as a fight when they spotted Gallegos, Medrano and the juvenile suspect running from the area, the lieutenant said.
It was ultimately determined that the three suspects had beaten up the victim, a 17-year-old Azusa boy, and taken his backpack, Hunt said. The backpack was found nearby. It was not immediately clear what had been inside.
The alleged victim planned to seek medical treatment on his own, Hunt added.
According to police and county booking records, Gallegos and Medrano were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail each pending their initial appearances in West Covina Superior Court.

Azusa man accused of child molestation captured in Lake Arrowhead

An Azusa man already on probation under AB 109 guidelines was behind bars without bail Wednesday on suspicion of child molestation after investigators tracked him to a San Bernardino County cabin, authorities said.
Robert Santos Arvizu, 41,was booked on suspicion of committing lewd acts on a child about 5 p.m. Tuesday after a multi-agency task force found him hiding out in a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, according to Azusa police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The arrest stemmed from an alleged molestation that took place Sunday, Azusa police Lt. Steve Hunt said.
Few details were released about the alleged incident as police continued investigating and prepared to present their findings to prosecutors, the lieutenant said.
“(Arvizu) had allegedly committed the crime of lewd acts with a child,” police said in a written statement. The gender of the child, described as under 14 years old, was not released Thursday.
The child was not a stranger to the suspect, however investigators declined to discuss their relationship.
Police quickly realized the man they were seeking was on county Post-Release Community Supervision under AB 109 guidelines due to a previous burglary conviction, officials said. Azusa investigators then enlisted the help of the San Gabriel Valley East AB 109 Task Force, a multi-agency group of law enforcement officers charged with keeping tabs on felons released from custody under AB 109 guidelines.
Officials quickly determined Arvizu had provided a false address to his probation officer, officials said.
“They also learned Arvizu quit his job on Monday,” according to the police statement. “He told his employers he had to leave the state.”
Details regarding Arvizu’s job was not available Wednesday, however Hunt said it did not involve children.
Fearing Arvizu was on the run, the task force began hunting for him and located him in Lake Arrowhead within eight hours of joining the search, police said. Officers arrested him without a struggle and turned him over to the Azusa Police Department.
According to county booking records, Arvizu was being held without bail pending his initial appearance in West Covina Superior Court.

Woman robbed, run over by SUV in Azusa

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AZUSA — Police are seeking two women who robbed another woman of her purse Wednesday, then ran her over with an SUV as the victim chased after them, officials said.
The 21-year-old victim, an Alta Loma resident, was fortunate to suffer no major injuries during the crime, which took place about 6:45 p.m. to the rear of a Chipotle Mexican Grill in the 800 block of East Alosta Avenue, Azusa police Sgt. Randy Schmidt said.
The young woman was sitting with a friend when a dark-colored Toyota 4Runner approached, the sergeant said. A passenger exited the SUV and grabbed a purse that was at the victim’s feet.
The robber returned to the SUV with the stolen purse, Schmidt said. The victim gave chase, and the car began driving away, running over the victim’s leg.
Paramedics took the woman to a hospital for treatment of injuries not believed to be serious, he said.
A detailed description of the two robbers was not available late Wednesday, however investigators continued checking nearby surveillance cameras for clues.
Anyone with information can reach the Azusa Police Department at 626-812-3200.

PHOTO: The women pictured in this surveillance photo are described by police as possible witnesses or persons of interest in the robbery.

Suspect in Colby Fire released to residential treatment facility

A federal judge Wednesday granted a request by one of three men accused of igniting the Colby Fire in the foothills above Glendora and Azusa was earlier this month to be housed in a residential treatment facility pending trial, officials said.
Transient Jonathan Jarrell, 23, was released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles to a residential treatment facility on a $10,000 bond, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said. He is under electronic monitoring.
His attorney had previously made a request that Jarrell be housed in such a situation, which deals with defendants with mental health or substance abuse issues. A magistrate judge previously ordered Jarrell held indefinitely, along with his two co-defendants, but said he could seek another hearing to be removed if facility space could be found.
Clifford Henry Jr., 22, of Glendora, and 21-year-old transient Steven Aguirre remained in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
All three have been charged with unlawfully setting timber afire, with more possible charges pending, and were scheduled to appear for preliminary hearings Feb. 5.
The trio was allegedly camping overnight near the Colby Trail north of Glendora when an early-morning campfire grew out of control, ultimately scorching 1,952 acres, according to Glendora police and U.S. Forest Service officials. Six people suffered minor injuries, five homes were destroyed, 10 outbuildings were destroyed, and eight structures were damaged during the fire, which remained 98 percent contained Wednesday. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate.
If convicted as charged, Jarrell, Henry and Aguirre, each face up to five years in federal prison.

San Gabriel Canyon Road reopened

AZUSA — San Gabriel Canyon Road re-opened Saturday after being closed to the public since the outset of the Colby Fire earlier this month.
The roadway was reopened shortly after 5 p.m., Caltrans officials said in a written statement.
The road was shut down after the Colby Fire ignited near the Colby Trail north of Glendora Jan. 16 due to danger posed by the fire, as well falling rocks from the denuded hillside.
The fire grew to 1,952 acres, destroyed five homes and damaged 18 other buildings. It remained 98 percent contained Saturday, with full containment expected by Sunday, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

Azusa man fatally struck by truck while walking dog identified

AZUSA — Coroner’s official Wednesday released the name of a 77-year-old Azusa man fatally struck while walking his dog earlier this week.
Emilio Ravenas died at a hospital after he was struck by a pickup truck just after 8 a.m. Monday at Sierra Madre Avenue and Lemon Swirl Drive, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operation Ed Winter said. An autopsy had not been carried out.
Ravenas was walking his dog across the street when he was struck by a pickup struck that was turning right from Sierra Madre Avenue onto Lemon Swirl Drive, Azusa police Sgt. Andy Sutcliffe said. The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators
The cause of the crash remained under investigation Wednesday. Lt. Steve Hunt said. No arrests or citations had been made.

- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

Colby Fire 78% contained; damage assessment revised

Firefighters have built containment lines around 78 percent of the 4-day-old Colby Fire burning in the foothills above Azusa and Glendora, authorities announced Sunday.
Officials also updated the damage toll. One home that was previously listed as damaged was reclassified as destroyed, according to U.S. Forest Service officials. The fire has destroyed six homes and 10 outbuildings, as well as damaged five other homes and one additional outbuilding.
Four people — two firefighters and two civilians — have been injured in the fire since it first broke out about 6 a.m. Thursday near the Colby Trail just north of Glendora.
The wildfire did not grow overnight, remaining at just over 1,900 acres in size, officials said.
And although the thick smoke that blanketed the region Thursday is gone, firefighters remained hard at work in the steep hillsides toward their goal of 100 percent containment by Wednesday morning, Angeles National Forest spokeswoman L’Tanga Watson said.
“We’re trying to build two miles of line around it today,” she said.
Additionally, firefighters continued “cleaning out the interior of the fire,” Watson said, burning off unburned vegetation within the fire perimeter in a controlled manner.
Forty-five firefighter hand crews, 100 fire engines, three helicopters, eight fixed-wing aircraft, and five bulldozers remained assigned to the fire Sunday, officials said.

Colby Fire continues to smolder; Mountain Cove evacuations to be lifted

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Firefighters continued strengthening containment lines around the 1,906-acre Colby Fire smoldering in the foothills at the northern edge of the San Gabriel Valley Saturday as the last remaining evacuees from Azusa received word they could return home.
The wildfire was 61 percent contained Saturday, leaving firefighters with eight miles of containment lines yet to complete, Angeles National Forest officials said.
Residents of the Mountain Cove neighborhood of Azusa — the only neighborhood still under evacuation orders Saturday — were advised they could return to their homes at 6 p.m. And officials announced the fire was expected to be fully contained by Wednesday.
“Today’s fire operations will be primarily focused on reinforcing containment lines along the fire’s northern perimeter and cooling hot spots,” ANF spokeswoman Jamie Uyehara said.
“There were some flare-ups last night,” Uyehara said. Firefighters also lit controlled burns overnight to clear excess fuel from the path of fire.
Firefighters made “excellent progress” overnight, “taking advantage of the lower temperatures and favorable wind conditions to successfully perform firing operations and reinforce containment lines where possible while working in steep rocky terrain,” U.S. Forest Service officials said in a written statement.
“The fire growth potential is medium,” the forest service statement said. “Fuels remain extremely dry and humidity anticipated in the single digits. Winds are expected to be lower than yesterday at 10 to 15 mph.”
Firefighters worked Saturday in temperatures around 87 degrees.
More than 1,100 personnel continued working the fire Saturday, including 45 hand crews, 104 fire engines and four bulldozers, officials added.
Three water-dropping helicopters and four air tankers were also on-hand should they be needed, though they were also available to be called upon to fight fires elsewhere, Uyehara said.
In addition to fire fighting aircraft, the skies above the fire were occupied with helicopters being operated by Southern California Edison to replace power poles damaged by the fire, Uyehara said.
“The incident team was able to save some of the other poles,” she added.
Despite damage to the electrical infrastructure, only 33 SCE customers were without power in Azusa and Glendora Saturday, according to the utility. All power was expected to be restored by Saturday afternoon.
The fire destroyed five homes in Glendora and damaged 17 other structures since it ignited just before 6 a.m. Thursday near the Colby Trail. Three young men have been arrested on suspicion of starting the fire with a campfire that got out of control and are being held in lieu of $500,000 bail each pending their initial appearances in federal court.

Firefighters light backfires to protect power poles during the Colby Fire early Saturday, Jan. 18, 2013. (Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

San Gabriel Valley cops meet in Azusa to discuss social media in law enforcement

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AZUSA — More than three-dozen law enforcement officials from throughout the San Gabriel Valley converged in Azusa Wednesday for a first-of-its-kind conference regarding police use of social media.
The newly formed San Gabriel Valley Law Enforcement Social Media Group is comprised of officers from 20 area law enforcement agencies with the shared goal of disseminating information and engaging with their communities through social media mechanisms such as Facebook, Twitter and others, Azusa police Officer Cherie Eads said in a written statement.
“The group will allow these officers, who are their departments’ social media managers, to receive training from experts within the group, and from outside sources, on the usage of the most popular social media channels,” Eads said. “It is imperative these officers know the current trends on the world wide web, so they can tailor their outreach and messages to reach the people living, working and playing in their communities.”
One issue discussed at Wednesday’s conference the notion of law enforcement agencies assisting each other with social media responsibilities during major incidents.
Officials also discussed other topics related to social media in law enforcement, Eads said.
Wednesday’s meeting took place two weeks after the Azusa Police Department launched a revamped website, with a strong emphasis on social media.
Representatives from the Azusa, Alhambra, Arcadia, Burbank, Claremont, Covina, El Monte, Glendale, Glendora, Irwindale, La Verne, Montebello, Monterey Park, Monrovia, Pomona, San Marino, South Pasadena, West Covina and Whittier police departments took part, as well as deputies from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s San Dimas, Temple City and Altadena stations, as well as the Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau.

PHOTO: (courtesy)