A federal jury on Thursday convicted the last of three suspects charged with starting the damaging Colby Fire above Glendora early this year, as officials cautioned that a looming storm poses a potential debris flow threat to the barren hillsides created by the wildfire.
The Los Angeles jury convicted Jonathan Carl Jarrell, a 23-year-old transient, of one felony and one misdemeanor in connection with a campfire that grew out of control on Jan. 16 and became the 1,952-acre wildfire that burned five homes and 17 other structures. One civilian and five firefighters were hurt during the fire.
Jarrell was found guilty of one felony charge of unlawfully setting timber afire, and a misdemeanor charge of illegally starting a fire, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The jury deadlocked on two additional misdemeanor charges related to the fire.
“As a result of today’s guilty verdicts, Jarrell faces up to five-and-a-half years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu on July 31,” Mrozek said.
The final conviction in the three-defendant case came just as Glendora city officials issued a “Yellow Alert” to urge residents to be prepared of the possibility of mud or debris flows in the hillsides denuded by the Colby Fire.
The thunderstorm was expected to hit Palmdale hardest, however officials issued the Yellow Alert, “due to the unpredictability of thunderstorms and the possibility it may go over the Colby Impact Area,” Glendora police officials said in a written statement.
Two friend’s of Jarrell’s were tried separately and each convicted by a federal jury May 16 of one felony count of unlawfully setting timber afire and three other misdemeanor charges related to illegally starting a campfire.
Clifford Eugene Henry, 22, of Glendora and transient Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, each face up to six-and-a-half years in federal prison when they return to court for sentencing Aug. 4, officials said.
“Henry, Aguirre and Jarrell were detained by Glendora police officers after they were seen escaping the fire,” Mrozek said. “During interviews with Glendora Police and personnel with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Arson Investigations Unit — interviews that the jury heard during the two trials — all three defendants admitted playing a role in the starting of a campfire that started the Colby Fire after wind blew burning paper into the brush in the hills above Glendora.”
The investigation was carried out by the Glendora Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
PHOTO of Jonathan Jarrell: courtesy
GORMAN >> A brush fire ignited and grew to more than seven acres Saturday along the 5 Freeway just west of Castaic Lake before firefighters surrounded the flames, authorities said.
The fire was first reported about 10:30 a.m. along the freeway near Templin Highway, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.
The brush fire grew to five acres within an hour and was burning uphill toward the east, officials said. Firefighters aggressively attacked the flames from both ground and air.
The blaze had grown beyond seven acres by noon, when fire officials announced it had been contained and was no longer actively burning.
A Red Flag Warning signifying increased fire danger in Los Angeles County due to high temperatures and low humidity levels was lifted Friday night, as temperatures began dipping in the Southland after three days of scorching heat.
MONTEREY PARK — Firefighters made quick work of a small brush fire in Monterey Park Friday afternoon, extinguishing the flames before the fire grew larger than a quarter-acre, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 5:17 p.m. in a brush area along the 1400 block Monterey Pass Road, Verdugo Fire Communications Center Dispatch Supervisor Lynda Sims said.
Firefighters declared the fire “knocked down” at 5:34 p.m., she added, and began mop-up operations.
The fire came during the third day of a Red Flag Warning in Los Angeles County due to increased fire risk presented by high temperatures and low humidity levels.
SAN GABRIEL >> A massive, three-alarm fire destroyed three business Thursday night and injured two firefighters, authorities said.
The fire caused an estimated $2 million worth of damage, San Gabriel Fire Department Division Chief Bryan Frieders. The damage to the building was estimated at $1.5 million, and the damage to the contents was valued at $500,000.
The heat and intensity of the flames forced firefighters to take a defensive stance around the blaze, dousing it with water from the perimeter, Frieders said.
“The fire was burning so hot, it wasn’t worth risking lives,” he said.
At one point during the lengthy fire, the roof of the building collapsed, Frieders said. Fortunately, no firefighters were on top of it.
Division Chief Derrick Doehler said investigators don’t believe the fire was arson, but the cause of the fire hasn’t been determined.
The fire broke out at 7:22 p.m. either behind or inside a cell phone store in the 200 block of South San Gabriel Boulevard, he said.
The wireless store was in a building that also had a gift shop-bookstore and a third business.
In addition to the building, one car parked nearby was destroyed and at least one other was damaged, Frieders said.
Doehler said two firefighters sustained moderate injuries while fighting the flames but didn’t say what kind of injuries. Both firefighters were treated at a hospital and released, he added.
“One came back on duty at his request. One went home,” Doehler said.
No other injuries were reported, authorities said.
About 80 fire personnel fought the fire which was knocked down a little more than three hours after it ignited.
Fire departments from Pasadena, Los Angeles County, Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Marino, Arcadia and Glendale assisted San Gabriel Fire Department with the incident.
On Friday morning, Doehler said city employees were at the scene clearing the street.
- By Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
PHOTO – Courtesy
As the fires grew in size and began consuming homes Wednesday afternoon, fire departments throughout the region and the state began mobilizing “strike teams” of firefighters to send south to San Diego County.
“We’re assembling a team to help,” Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott said. It was not immediately clear how many firefighters would head south, however he said likely at least one strike team of five engines and a battalion chief would be sent to aid their counterparts in San Diego County. No Los Angeles Fire Department aircraft had been sent to San Diego County Wednesday afternoon, Scott said. “They haven’t been requested.”
U.S. Forest Service officials announced 42 engines, two hand crews, two helitankers and one additional firefighting aircraft were sent to help in SSan Diego County, totalling about 265 firefighters.
The Verdugo Unified Command — a coalition of a dozen partnered Los Angeles County fire-fighting agencies including Pasadena, Monrovia, Montebello, Burbank, and Glendale — also began readying a strike team to help battle the San Diego County wildfires, Verdugo Communications Center Dispatch Supervisor Christina Kazazian-Wilson said. A total of five engines, one battalion chief and one battalion chief trainee were en route Wednesday afternoon.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department was just beginning to organize a strike team to send to San Diego County Wednesday afternoon, according to fire department radio traffic.
“We are sending resources to aid with San Diego County wildfire,” LACFD officials confirmed via Twitter. Two Los Angeles County Fire Department hand crews were sent to help, along with a five-engine strike team.
Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters already had their hands full watching out for fires locally, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Scott Miller said, as Los Angeles County remained under a red Flag Warning due to an increased fire danger presented by high temperatures, low humidity levels and high winds. The warning was expected to remain in effect through Thursday night.
“Right now, we’re focused on protecting the County of Los Angeles,” Miller said.
San Bernardino County Fire Department officials also confirmed that a five-engine strike team was en route to San Diego County to help.
MONTEBELLO — A fire tore through a condominium at a large Montebello complex Wednesday afternoon, but was extinguished by firefighters before it could spread to other units, authorities said.
The fire was reported at 1:53 p.m. in a second-floor unit of a two-story, multi-unit condominium complex in the 1600 block of Neil Armstrong Street, Verdugo Fire Communications Center Dispatch Supervisor Lynda Sims said.
The first firefighters on-scene declared a second-alarm and called for reenforcements, however they quickly got control of the flames, Sims said. Officials declared the fire “knocked down” at 2:12 p.m.
No injuries were reported to civilians or firefighters, Sims said. It was not immediately clear if the unit was occupied when the fire broke out.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
ARCADIA >> A fire at an Arcadia apartment building displaced 13 people, injured one and caused about $300,000 worth of damage, officials said.
The fire was reported at 1:43 a.m. at an apartment building in the 600 block of Windsor Road, Arcadia Fire Department spokeswoman Beth Stogner said in a written statement.
“Upon their arrival, firefighters encountered heavy fire and smoke coming from an upstairs unit of an eight unit apartment building,” Stogner said. “The unit of origin was fully involved in fire, which had extended into the attic space.”
Firefighters managed to extinguish the flames in about 20 minutes, she said.
All 13 residents of the apartment complex got out of the burning building before firefighters arrived.
“One occupant was transported to a local hospital for smoke inhalation and minor cuts,” Stogner said.
The Red Cross was summoned to help the displaced residents find lodging.
Fire officials estimated the fire caused $250,000 worth of damage to the building, and another $50,000 to items stored inside.
The fire ignited in a sleeping area and was initially believed to be accidental, though the specific cause remained under investigation.
SOUTH WHITTIER >> A fire scorched a shed, two homes and a small patch of vegetation Friday afternoon before firefighters extinguished the flames, officials said.
The fire was first reported about 4:35 p.m. in the 11800 block of South Colima Road, just south of Leffingwell Road, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Cheryl Sims said.
Initially reported as a possible garage fire, firefighters arrived to find a shed and a small patch of vegetation on fire, Sims said. The fire also involved downed power and phone wires.
Firefighters extinguished the fire within about half an hour, though it was not declared officially “knocked down” for about an hour, Sims said. Firefighters summoned Southern California Edison and Verizon officials to take care of the damaged wiring.
No injuries were reported.
The fire was initially believed to have started in the shed, Gama said. It spread to a power pole, causing it to topple, spark and further spread the fire.
The shed sustained about $4,000 worth of damage, Gama said. A nearby home sustained about $10,000 worth of exterior damage, and another sustained about $6,000 worth of damage, but both remained inhabitable.
The cause of the fire was under investigation, Sims said.
About 40 residents of 10 nearby homes were briefly evacuated as a precaution, however they were able to return home shortly, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Ralph gama said.
Officials were preparing to use Los Altos Elementary School as an evacuation shelter, however that did not become necessary, according to sheriff’s and South Whittier School District officials.
“We had volunteers at the ready as well as food and water,” SWSD Associate Superintendant Michael Krause said in an email. “We will always be available to help our community in times of need.”
MONTEREY PARK >> Six firefighters and nine civilians were injured, one of them critically, Wednesday after two fire engines collided in a Monterey Park intersection, sending one of them careening into a dim sum restaurant, authorities said.
The crash, which involved a Monterey Park Fire Department fire engine and an Alhambra Fire Department ladder truck, was first reported about 3:15 p.m. at the Lu Dumpling House, at the southeast corner of Garfield and Emerson avenues, according to Monterey Park police and fire officials.
The critically injured civilians was taken to a trauma center, Monterey Park Fire Department Chief Jim Birrell said. The other eight civilians’ injuries were believed to be minor.
Three Alhambra firefighters and two Monterey Park firefighters suffered minor injuries in the crash, while another Monterey Park firefighter suffered injuries described as moderate, Monterey Park fire Capt. Matt Hallock said.
Both vehicles were rushing to the scene of a house fire toward the southern end of Monterey Park when the crash occurred, officials said. The East Los Angeles office of California Highway Patrol is investigating the collision.
The Monterey Park engine was eastbound on Emerson Avenue just prior to the crash, and the Alhambra Fire Department ladder truck was southbound on Garfield Avenue, CHP Officer Doris Peniche said.
“They both had their full lights and sirens on as they approached the intersection,” Peniche said. “They collided, causing one of the engines to crash into the building.
The critically injured man was believed to be inside the restaurant when it was struck, authorities said. A further description was not available.
It was unclear whether the other eight civilians who were hurt were inside the restaurant.
The firefighter who suffered moderate injuries had been driving the Monterey Park fire engine, Hallock said.
Firefighters involved in the crash hopped off the damaged trucks and began tending to injured, he added.
The vehicles easily weigh more than 70,000 pounds each, Hallock said.
The fire truck remained lodged halfway into the restaurant late Wednesday afternoon, and it was not immediately clear if the restaurant had sustained structural damage.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department urban search and rescue team assisted their counterparts from the Monterey Park, Alhambra, Pasadena, San Gabriel, Burbank and Glendale fire departments at the scene.
Though the involved trucks came from different agencies, they often work together under a regional assistance plan and are dispatched by the same Glendale-based center.
Hallock described Wednesday’s collision as “highly unusual” and “highly unfortunate.”
While firefighters often rush to emergency calls, “we train to drive cautiously and arrive at the scene safely,” he said.
When a fire department emergency vehicle is en route to a call with emergency lights and sirens activated, procedure is to enter the intersection at a safe speed and make sure the intersection is clear before proceeding, Birrell said.
“This is the first time in my career — 30 years — that I’ve witnessed an accident like this,” the chief said.
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.