UPDATED: Fire scorches Santa Fe Springs food manufacturing plant

SANTA FE SPRINGS — A fire scorched a food manufacturing plant in Santa Fe Springs before firefighters doused the flames Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 1:33 p.m. at Day-Lee Foods, Inc., 13055 E. Molette Street, a Santa Fe Springs Fire Department dispatcher said.
Both Santa Fe Springs and Los Angeles County firefighters worked the fire, as it occurred near the border between Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk, officials said. They declared the fire “knocked down” at 1:54 p.m.
About employees evacuated themselves from the burning building prior to firefighters’ arrival, Santa Fe Springs Fire Department Division Chief Mike Yule said. No injuries were reported.
Officials determined the fire ignited as employees were moving an air conditioning unit atop the building when they accidentally ruptured a pipe carrying 500-degree oil used to cook tuna fish, the chief said. The oil caught fire, spreading flames to the roof.
Firefighters managed to keep the fire confined to the roof of the building and a single maintenance room, he added.
The fire caused an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 worth of damage, Yule said.
The plant manufactures food products for sales in stores and restaurants, according to its website.

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Fire leads officials to marijuana grow house in Arcadia

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Arcadia police is investigating a marijuana “grow house” found Monday during an electrical fire call, Sgt. Jason Davis said.
Arcadia fire and police responded to a call at 8:49 a.m. about a transformer on fire at a residence in the 2400 block of Louise Avenue, Davis said.
When first responders arrived, they found a small roof fire caused by wires, officials said.
“In an attempt to locate persons inside the residence and get them to safety, officers made entry into the house and observed numerous marijuana plants in different stages of cultivation,” Davis said in a written statement. Officers then summoned detectives to the scene.
“Detectives searched the residence and recovered 2,489 live marijuana plants along with sophisticated growing equipment used for the cultivation of the crops,” Davis said.
Additionally, police found the home’s wiring had been rewired to bypass the Southern California Edison meter, effectively stealing it’s electricity from the utility, police said.
An SCE officials estimated between $16,000 and $20,000 worth of power had been stolen by the grow house, Davis said.
No one was at the home at the time of the fire, and no suspects had been arrested, police said.
Anyone with information, call the Arcadia Police Department at 626-574-5150. Anonymous tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-222-8477.

PHOTO courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department

- Venusse Navid and Brian Day

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Altadena bungalow scorched by fire

ALTADENA — A bungalow was destroyed in an early morning fire Friday along Ganesha Avenue in Altadena, officials said.
The fire was reported about 3:30 a.m. in the 2400 block of Ganesha Avenue, Sgt. Daniel Tobin of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said.
The building, along with three other bungalows situated on the same lot that were not damaged, were vacant for renovations, the sergeant said.
The cause of the fire had not been determined Friday afternoon, however it was not initially considered suspicious, Tobin said.
He “conservatively” estimated that the fire caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

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95-year-old man killed in Pasadena duplex fire identified

PASADENA — Officials Wednesday released the name of a 95-year-old man who was found dead after a fire tore through his duplex late Friday.
Abel McDaniel died at the scene of the fire, which was reported about 11:40 p.m. at his home in the 100 block of Carlton Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
An autopsy had been performed, however a cause of death had not been determined pending the results of further tests, Winter said.
Officials rushed to the burning duplex after family members of McDaniel, who live in the adjoining unit, noticed the smoke and fire, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. Family members had tried to rescue the man themselves, but were overcome by the smoke and flames.
The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical, and it was ruled an accident, she said.
Officials described McDaniel as a longtime Pasadena resident known as “Mr. Mac” who was known to sit on a white lawn chair in his front yard and greet neighbors.
The fire caused an estimated $300,000 worth of damage.

- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

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Fire scorches West Covina home

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WEST COVINA — A fire blamed on a roofing mishap damaged a West Covina home and displaced the family that lived inside it Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
No injuries were reported in the fire, which broke out about 1:15 p.m. and scorched a two-story home in the 1000 block of West Puente Avenue, just west of Vincent Avenue, West Covina Fire Department Chief Rick Genovese said.
Officials estimated the damage to the home and it’s contents at more than $100,000, however the residents all escaped unharmed, the chief said.
A resident was carrying out roofing work on an eve between the first and second floors when the fire ignited, Genovese said.
“He was using a propane torch to heat up roofing material,” he said. “It appears at this point the insulation caught first.”
Genovese said the resident ripped up shingles and attempted to extinguish the fire himself, but called 9-1-1 as it continued to spread through the roof of the home and into the walls.
The man, along with his wife and children, had gotten out of the burning home before firefighters arrived, which was within four minutes of the initial 9-1-1 call, Genovese said.
The Red Cross was summoned to help the displaced family find temporary lodging, he added. The families pet dogs appeared to have run off during the commotion, but were not believed to have been injured in the fire.

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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)

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95-year-old Pasadena man dies in fire at duplex

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PASADENA — A 95-year-old longtime Pasadena resident died late Friday in a fire at his Carlton Avenue home, authorities said.
The man’s officials identity was not released Saturday pending positive identification by coroner’s investigators.
The fatal fire broke out just before 11:40 p.m. inside the front unit of a duplex in the 100 block of Carlton Avenue, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
The man’s great niece and her teenage son, who live in the rear unit of the duplex, were alerted to the fire when their smoke alarm went off, she said.
“They tried to go in and rescue him, but they were overcome by smoke and flame,” Derderian said. The frantic family members then called 9-1-1, reporting the fire and the elderly man trapped inside the burning home.
“We got there within minutes and did an aggressive attack,” Derderian said.
Firefighters found the man and pulled him outside, officials said. He succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
The elderly man had lived in the home since the early-1970s and had lived in Pasadena even longer, Derderian said. He had become a fixture on his street, where he was known for greeting neighbors from his white lawn chair and passing out homemade jellies and jams.
“He was still physically active at 95 years old,” Derderian said.
Investigators determined the cause to be electrical in nature and ruled the fire accidental, Derderian said. Further details regarding how the fire ignited were not immediately available.
The relatives were not injured, Derderian said, but were displaced from their home due to smoke and water damage.
Officials estimated the fire caused $300,000 worth of damage.

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Glendora residents band together in face of flames

GLENDORA — Residents living at the base of the Colby Trail in Glendora near the origin of the Colby Fire breathed easier once the smoke thinned late Thursday as they recalled tense moments hours earlier when the flames were within stone’s throw of their homes.
Residents throughout the neighborhood immediately began wetting the roofs of their houses with garden hoses as they found flames bearing down on their homes from nearby hillsides, and other grabbed shovels and raced up the trail to do what they could do extinguish the flames with dirt, residents said.
“There was at least 20 guys who grabbed shovels and ran up there,” neighbor Brian Wilmmer, 39, said. “It was actually really neat to see.”
The fire burned within 100 yards of the home of Roger Ellenson, 61.
He said he was already at work when friends, some of them watching the news from other countries, began calling him to tell him about the fire in his neighborhood.
Ellenson rushed home to find flames creeping over a hillside that overlooked his house.
Palm trees occasionally caught fire as hot embers carried by the wind landed on them at the outset of the fire.
“We were all out here wetting out roofs, just to be safe,” Ellenson said.
Wilmmer and Ellenson both elected to remain at their homes despite mandatory evacuation orders, but said they’d stocked their vehicles with irreplaceable items such as family photos in case they had to flee in a hurry.
The neighbors said the Colby Trail is a popular hiking spot, where young people sometimes seek out as a secluded place to hang out to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana.
“Occasionally, you see kids up there. I’m sure they’re drinking, smoking,” Wilmmer said.
Sometimes hikers access the area via the Colby Trail, while others head down from Glendora Mountain Road.
There are seldom problems, Ellenson added. “It’s mostly kids going up there to smoke dope.”
Marijuana was found inside the backpack of one of the three young men accused of accidentally sparking the wildfire with a campfire that got out of control.

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Parking restrictions announced in Pasadena ahead of fire weather

PASADENA — Red Flag Warning parking restrictions will begin at 3 a.m. Monday in Pasadena due to increased fire danger, officials said.
Vehicles parked on streets designated with signs as restricted during elevated fire danger will be towed and cited, Pasadena city officials said in a written statement.
Anticipated strong winds and low humidity levels early this week are expected to create, “favorable conditions for rapid fire growth if fire ignition occurs,” according to the statement.

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Two men killed in Whittier fire identified

WHITTIER — Authorities have released the names of two men found dead inside their burning home last week.
The bodies of Ruben Nareja Garcia, 31, and Jose Luis Cortez, 34, were found once firefighters extinguished a Jan. 2 fire at their apartment, which sat atop a garage in the 13500 block of Via Del Palma Avenue in Whittier, on the morning of Jan. 2, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The officials identification of the men was delayed due to the burned condition of their bodies, officials said.
Cortez died from smoke inhalation and burns, and the death was ruled an accident, Winter said.
Garcia’s cause of death had not been determined as coroner’s investigators awaited test results, he said.
Investigators initially ruled out arson and were focusing their investigation on the possibility a pile of clothes near an electrical outlet was to blame, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Bryan Kidder said.

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