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)
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.
GLENDORA — A man is accused of drunken driving after crashing a pickup truck and damaging the front of a Glendora home, authorities said.
The crash took place just before 2 a.m. in the 200 block of West Bennett Avenue, Glendora police Lt. Matt Williams said.
Daniel Barron, 32, was allegedly drunk when he crashed his pickup truck through the fence of a home, damaging brick work and toppling a tree over onto the residence, the lieutenant said.
The home’s porch and exterior were damage, and a window was smashed, according to police and video footage of the aftermath posted by the homeowner on YouTube.com.
“Some nice but over served gentlemen decided to redo the front of our home,” read a caption the accompanied the video.
Barron’s passenger, a 27-year-old Fontana man, was also arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public, Williams said.
Both men were released later in the day with court dates, records show.
No injuries were reported.
GLENDORA — A family’s home was destroyed, two pet lizards died and cat was missing following a mobile home fire Saturday in Glendora.
A woman and her 8-year-old daughter who were inside the mobile home in the 21200 block of East Arrow Highway when it caught fire just after 3:30 p.m. fire escaped unharmed, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Michael Bernal said. A man and 2-year-old girl who live there were not home at the time.
The fire was first discovered when the 8-year-old girl alerted her mother that she smelled smoke, the captain said.
The mother went to investigate, he said. “She found smoke, and fire going up the wall.”
Firefighters found the mobile home engulfed in flames when they arrived, officials said. They doused the fire in just under 20 minutes, however the home was deemed a total loss.
Two pet lizards that were inside the mobile home died in the fire, Bernal said. The family’s pet cat was missing.
Firefighters determined the cause of the fire was an electrical malfunction, he said.
Officials estimated the fire caused $120,000 worth of damage to the mobile home and its contents.
The manager of the mobile home park where the fire broke out, Royal Palms, offered to place the family in a vacant unit for the night as they made plans to move forward, Bernal added.
GLENDORA — Police arrested a man and woman Wednesday on suspicion of stealing about $2,300 in goods from a Glendora Kohl’s store, and also linked them to other alleged thefts from Kohl’s locations in Arcadia and Alhambra, authorities said.
Marcus Steven Hernandez, 23, of El Monte and Elsa Judith Haro, 21, of El Monte, were booked on suspicion of commercial burglary following Wednesday’s incident, which was first reported about 1:50 a.m. at Kohl’s, 1225 S. Lone Hill Avenue, according to Glendora police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
A store representative called police to report the theft, and that the suspects left in a vehicle with part of the license plate concealed by duct tape, Glendora police Lt. Joe Ward said.
A volunteer officer spotted the vehicle, and police soon caught with the suspect’s car on the westbound 210 Freeway, Ward said. Police pulled the car over at Factor Avenue and Glen Lyn Drive in Azusa and arrested Hernandez and Haro without incident.
They were found with about 25 pairs of jeans that had been stolen from the Glendora Kohl’s, as well as various electronic items, Ward said. Some of the stolen merchandise was found to have been taken previously in thefts at other Kohl’s locations in Arcadia and Alhambra.
According to county booking records and police, Hernandez was being held in lieu of $60,000 bail pending his arraignment Friday in West Covina Superior Court. In addition to the alleged burglary, he was also being held in connection with an outstanding warrant for being under the influence of drugs.
Haro was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending her initial court appearance Friday, records show.
PHOTO courtesy of Glenn Purbaugh
GLENDORA — Police arrested a husband and wife Sunday after a gun they had went off accidentally inside a Sam’s Club store, wounding the man in the forearm, officials said.
Robert Duncan, 48, and Helen Duncan were booked on suspicion of negligently discharging a firearm, Glendora police Sgt. Michael Henderson said. There city of residence was not immediately available.
The incident took place shortly before 1:30 p.m. just inside the entrance of the store, 1501 S. Lone Hill Ave., he said.
The man and woman were passing a bag between them which contained the gun, Henderson said. They dropped the bag, causing the gun inside to fire.
Henderson said Robert Duncan was struck in the forearm by the bullet. No one else was injured.
Officers found the man and women at San Dimas Community Hospital. He was treated for his injury and released from the hospital the same day.
In addition to negligently discharging a gun, the husband was also expected to face a charge of illegal weapon possession, Henderson said.
GLENDORA — Two men robbed and carjacked another man in the parking lot of a Walmart store early Saturday, police said.
The crime took place just after 1 a.m. at the store at 1950 Auto Centre Drive, Glendora police Lt. Matt Egan said.
Two men approached another man as he was loading up his car with purchases from the store, the sergeant said. One of the robbers was armed with a handgun.
They ultimately fled with the man’s blue 2001 Volvo S40, as well as some money, the sergeant said.
A detailed suspect description was not available.
GLENDORA — A man armed with a knife robbed a student of his wallet at Citrus College Wednesday night.
The victim wasn’t injured during the 3;20 p.m. incident on the campus at 1000 W. Foothill Blvd.
The robber pulled a knife and took the victim’s wallet which contained cash and credit cards, according to Sgt. Scott Strong.
Strong said the suspect was last seen running eastbound Foothill Boulevard.
The suspect was described as a Latino, about 25, clean cut, 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds.
- Ruby Gonzales
GLENDORA – A memorial service is planned this weekend to honor the memories of two homeless men with deep roots in Glendora who were stabbed to death earlier this month.
A memorial service for John “Little John” Welch and Warren Blagrave, both 52, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Church of The Brethren, 151 S. Glendora Avenue, according to Nicolette Wingert, founder of the Glendora-based organization of Nurses For Christ, which is organizing the event.
The friends were fatally stabbed Aug. 15 at a carwash in the 200 block of Route 66, where both had been spending their nights in recent weeks, according to friends and investigators.
Welch and Blagrave were each stabbed more than 20 times in the early-morning attack, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
Investigators later in the day arrested 28-year-old Drew Alan Friis of Glendora in connection with the double-fatal stabbing. He had been charged with two counts murder, and prosecutors also allege the special allegation of multiple murders, making Friis potentially eligible for the death penalty. A decision regarding wither the death penalty will be sought in the case has not yet been made.
A motive in the knife attack has not been released. Friis was scheduled to appear in Pomona Superior Court for an arraignment hearing Oct. 3.
Wingert said members of Nurses For Christ, which regularly provided meals to Welch, Blagrave and local homeless people and gave Welch with his last meal, are still having a hard time coming to grips with the double-slaying.
“We saw them pretty much every day,” she said. “It was really sad. It’s very hard to accept, because of how it happened.”
Welch was a member of the Church of the Brethren, while Blagrave — who had just returned from a stay in Oregon — was hoping to join the church and use his guitar to play music for the congregation, Wingert said. “He wanted to join the church and sing songs. But he never got a chance. He was slain.”
So the volunteers who tried to make sure Welch and Blagrave had a quality meal each day are now working toward providing the men with a proper burial.
Donations collected at Saturday’s memorial will be used for the funerals, Wingert said. Any extra funds collected will benefit other local homeless people.
For more information, contact Wingert at Nurses For Christ at 626-315-7392.
LOS ANGELES — A longtime Glendora Unified School District employee accused of embezzling more than $350,000 entered a not guilty plea in court Thursday, officials said.
Cynthia Lee Schlig, 57, of Upland entered the plea at an arraignment in Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said. She is charged with five felony counts including forgery, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds.
Schlig was ordered back to court Sept. 26 for a preliminary hearing setting, Davila-Morales said.
Glendora investigators arrested Schlig Tuesday following 19 months of investigation, Glendora police Lt. Brian Summers said.
Detectives found evidence of the embezzlement scheme going back five years, the lieutenant said.
Schlig, a former accounting specialist for the district’s finance department, had worked for the GUSD for 35 years, officials said.
She resigned her position in January of 2012, shortly after the allegations came to light, district officials said.
Schlig remained in custody Friday at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood in lieu of $140,000 bail, county booking records show.