Flash Flood Warning issued as heavy rain resumes in foothill burn areas

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning Saturday afternoon as heavy rains again began to pound the already water-saturated hillsides of recent burn areas in Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia.
The warning, which was preceded by forecasts of heavy rain and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon, was issued just before 2:30 p.m. It was expected to remain in effect through 4:15 p.m.
“At 2:15 p.m., National Weather Service doppler radar indicated a cluster of thunderstorms moving toward the burn areas,” according to a statement issued by the agency. “Rainfall rates have exceeded one half inch per half hour with these storms, which will be capable of producing additional flooding with mud and debris flows in the burn area.”
Those who remained inside the mandatory evacuation zones were advised to shelter in place rather than trying to leave their homes during the storm.

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UPDATED: Storm continues soaking unstable hillsides of Glendora, Azusa, Monrovia

A massive rainstorm continued to intermittently soak barren hillsides Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia Saturday as officials warned evacuated residents that the danger of mudslides and flooding remained very real, even as rays of sunshine peaked through the clouds.
The rain damaged to properties in Glendora on Friday afternoon and sent mud pouring into the backyards of three homes in Azusa early Saturday, authorities said. Mandatory evacuation orders for more than 1,200 area residents of the recent Colby Fire burn area remained in effect, with no estimate of when they may be lifted.
Though the storm saw a relative lull overnight, it was expected to resume dropping heavy rain on the region about 10 a.m., with showers and possible thunderstorms continuing though the afternoon, Glendora police and city officials said at a morning news conference. The storm was expected to exit the area by 9 p.m.
Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab asked evacuated residents to remain patient, and cautioned them not to underestimate the continued threat posed by the storm.
“For those residents who have been evacuated, this is getting old. We understand that. We continue to ask or our residents’ patience,” Staab said. “Out No. 1 goal is to get our residents back into their homes and, unfortunately, it’s these storms that are getting in the way right now.”
But with thunderstorms potentially on the horizon, and hillsides saturated with water and unstable, the danger remained real, the chief said.
“The experts tell us that thunderstorms are unpredictable, and they form really quickly,” he said. “They also tell us that the hillsides are so saturated that we really don’t know at this point what event can cause the hills to suddenly break loose. And once that momentum starts, you just have to get out of the way.”
The foothills near the Colby Fire burn area had received 4 inches of rain by Saturday, Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers said.
“Rates were recorded at 1.3 inches per hour.”
Rainfall rates at or above half-an-inch per hour create serious potential for mudslide, Jeffers said.
And the NWS predicted another two inches may fall in the area by the storm’s conclusion, officials said. Even heavier rain was expected along the mountain ridge line.
The NWS issued a Flash Flood Warning for the foothill burn areas just before 2:30 p.m. Saturday as heavy rain began to fall again on the region. The warning was expected to remain in effect through 4:15 p.m.
The amount of rainfall Saturday afternoon would be crucial in determining when evacuation orders in Glendora would be lifted, Jeffers said. Those who remained in their homes were advised to stay in their homes and not attempt to leave should mud begin flowing.
And officials again cautioned residents that firefighters cannot rush into a mudslide or debris flow to effect a rescue. They must wait until the debris flow stops and drys.
The National Weather Service issued a brief tornado warning for the east San Gabriel Valley between about 3:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. No funnel cloud materialized, however hail as large as 1-inch fell in Walnut, officials said.
The four key debris basins near the Colby Fire were holding up well and were not expected to reach capacity during the storm, Jeffers said. When inspected at 6 a.m. Saturday, they ranged from 40 percent to 55 percent full.
Two homes in the 1100 block of Easley Canyon Road in Glendora sustained damage Friday afternoon, Los Angeles County Fire Department Assistant Chief Steve Martin said. The garage of one home was inundated with mud, while a nearby home’s backyard was flooded with mud that pressed up against the rear of the home.
City officials identified another dozen or so home where mud had flowed onto the properties, but not entered into the homes, Jeffers said. They were urged to hire geotechnical engineers to examine their properties.
Officials took note of 15 sites in the city where an estimated 200 cubic yards of mud and debris needed to be removed from roadways.
Jeffers added that the city is asking that once the storm passes, residents keep the more than 50,000 sandbags distributed during the storm in case of future potential mudslides. The denuded hillsides of the Colby Fire burn area will continue to present debris flow danger during storms for three to four years.
Residents along Rainbow Road at the northern edge of Glendora continued shoring up barriers Saturday. Some were made of metal pipes and wood, while others consisted of sandbags and tarps. Neighbors mentioned they had been contacted by city officials in February, in the wake of the Colby Fire, to discuss mitigation of potential debris flow.
Glendora residents Gary Smith used a break in the rainfall Saturday morning to take a bike ride. Looking at a barrier erected to block the flow of mud, “It looks like it did its job,” he said.
In Azusa, flowing mud along the 1700 block of Ridge View Drive, where officials expanded evacuation orders Friday, became far too close for comfort to three homes early Saturday, Azusa police Sgt. John Madaloni said. The mud flowing through the backyards reached the windowsill of one home, while it rose 2- to 3-feet high along the back of the other two.
“We don’t have any evidence that it’s actually gone into the homes, but it’s certainly accumulating outside the exterior walls,” Madaloni said.
“The damage right now is limited to cosmetic damage,” the sergeant said. Items such as fences and external stairways had been damaged, along with an avocado grove, but no structural damage had been confirmed.
Highway 39 in Azusa was shut down during a downpour Saturday afternoon due to mud flowing onto the roadway, as well as fears the K-rails placed to block slides would not hold, police said.
The evacuation zone in Monrovia, comprised of about 200 homes in the northern end of town, has sustained no reported structure damage, Monrovia police Lt. Zeke Cerecerez said.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Crews made quick work overnight of a mudslide the flowed onto Highland Place, just north of Hillcrest Boulevard, he said.
Officials tentatively planned to lift mandatory evacuation orders in Monrovia at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“We appreciate our residents’ patience at this time,” Monrovia Fire Department Chief Chris Donovan said in a written statement. “We are still predicting some mud and debris flows from the storms predicted by the National Weather Service this afternoon. Once those pass, we will re-evaluate the evacuation orders.”
In Sierra Madre, a rock slide on the Mt. Wilson trail prompted Sierra Madre city officials to urge residents to avoid the area late Saturday morning.

— Staff writer Grace Wong contributed to this report.

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UPDATED: Upland man accused of DUI following injury crash on 210 Freeway in Glendora

GLENDORA >> A two-vehicle crash that injured three people on the 210 Freeway in Glendora Saturday afternoon is blamed on a drunken driver, according to California Highway Patrol officials.
Daniel L. Runnestrand, 53, of Upland was arrested on suspicion of felony driving under the influence of alcohol following the 2:20 p.m. crash on the eastbound 210 Freeway, just east of Grand Avenue, California Highway Patrol Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said. He suffered injuries described as moderate in the collision.
He was driving a 2007 Ford F-250 pickup truck at a “high rate of speed” in the No. 3 lane just prior to the collision with a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass, the officer said.
“This collision occurred when Mr. Runnestrand changed lanes from the No. 3 lane to the No. 4 lane and collided with the rear end of the Oldsmobile Cutlass,” Jimenez said.
The pickup truck overturned, ending up on it’s roof in the No. 4 lane, he said. The Oldsmobile was spun around and pushed to the right shoulder.
The sedan was severely damaged in the crash, however the occupants were conscious and breathing when treated by firefighters, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. P.J. Carter said.
Jimenez said the driver of the Oldsmobile, who had not been positively identified but was believed to be a Pomona resident in his 50s, suffered major injuries. They included internal injuries and a fractured leg.
His passenger, a 54-year-old Pomona woman, was hospitalized with injuries believed to be moderate.
Both the man and woman from the Oldsmobile were flown to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center by helicopter for treatment, officials said.
“Mr. Runnestrand was placed under arrest for suspicion of felony driving under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury and was transported to USC Medical Center via ambulance to be treated for his injuries,” Jimenez said.
Witnesses reported the pickup truck had been weaving in and out of traffic lanes just prior to the crash, according to CHP logs.
Officials issued Sig Alert for the two right lanes of the eastbound 210 Freeway that remained in effect for nearly two hours.
Coincidentally, CHP’s Southern Division fielded 20 extra officers late Saturday into early Sunday to hunt for intoxicated drivers in a DUI saturation patrol, officials said.
The collision was being investigated by officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.

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Glendora police receive grant to combat alcohol sales to minors

GLENDORA — The Glendora Police Department has been selected to receive funding to continue taking part in minor decoy operations to deter businesses and adults from providing alcohol to minors, officials announced this week.
California Office Of Traffic Safety officials has announced Glendora police will be once again funded this year take part in the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s Minor Decoy-Shoulder Tap program, Glendora police officials said in a written statement.
“During the program, a minor decoy, under the direct supervision of law enforcement officers, either attempts to purchase alcohol, or solicits adults outside ABC licensed stores to buy the minor decoy alcohol,” according to the police statement. “Any person furnishing alcohol to the minor decoy is either cited or arrested for furnishing alcohol to a minor.”
Glendora police have routinely taken part in the program in the past, officials said. During the last operation, carried out over the holiday season, 22 businesses were visited. None sold alcohol to the minor decoys.
“This was the first time in recent memory where the Department has conducted an alcohol minor decoy operation without a single sale,” Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said. “This is exactly what I want. An important part of this program is to raise public awareness about of underage drinking, and it’s working.”

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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.

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Elderly longtime Glendora man dies following bicycle crash


An elderly longtime Glendora man struck by a car while riding his bike Monday has died from his injuries, officials confirmed Friday.
Francisco Alvarez, 78, died Wednesday afternoon at a hospital following Monday’s collision at Foothill Boulevard and Elwood Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Joe Bale said. He was initially described by police as 79 years old.
Alvarez was a poet, an avid bicyclist and devoted father and grandfather and who was always joking, said his son, Andrew Alvarez of Rancho Cucamonga.
“He was a great man. He’ll definitely be missed,” the son said.
Alvarez was riding his bicycle about 2:30 p.m. when he was struck and fatally injured by a sedan being driven by an 86-year-old Glendora man, Glendora police officials said.
Alvarez was heading west on Foothill Boulevard and the sedan was heading east just prior to the impact, Glendora police Lt. Matt Williams said. The car then made a left turn when it collided with the bicyclist.
Police officers found the Alvarez had no pule and was not breathing when they arrived on scene, but managed to resuscitate the man before he was rushed to a hospital, where he clung to life for two days, officials said.
The cause of the collision remained under investigation, authorities said, however the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, and nothing criminal was initially suspected.
Francisco Alvarez was born in Spain, where he worked as a teacher, wrote poetry and considered becoming a monk.
“For obvious reasons, I’m glad he didn’t go through with,” his son said.
But while in his 30s, Alvarez decided to move to North America, first settling in Canada before hitchhiking across the continent, from Alaska to Mexico City.
He met his wife in Montreal, Canada, and the couple had two children, Andrew Alvarez said. The family moved to Glendora in 1980, where Francisco Alvarez and his wife have lived ever since.
Francisco Alvarez worked as a credit manager for Allfast Fastening Systems Inc. in Industry until he retired in 2003, his son said.
He often rode his bike to work, the son added. And in retirement, he took a 10-mile bike ride every day, then walked his dog two miles each evening. He was also a faithful Catholic who rode his bike to Mass every Sunday.
“He was extremely healthy,” Andrew Alvarez said.
“He valued education. He pushed us very hard for that,” Andre Alvarez said. “He was very grateful that after bing born in poverty in Spain, to see where he had come.”
Francisco Alvarez is survived by his wife, Catherine Alvarez: sisters Lupe and Carmen Alvarez, who are nuns in Spain; his children, Andrew and Carmen Alvarez; daughter-in-law Jennifer Alvarez, and grandchildren Anya, 11, and Daniel, 9.
Francisco Alvarez was very close with his grandchildren, his son said.
Anya said she enjoyed walking the dog with her grandfather as he sung songs in Spanish. She also said she remembered his jokes.
Daniel recalled that his grandfather encouraging him to eat his broccoli.
Francisco Alvarez had a passion for poetry, his son said. He stopped writing around the time he had a family, but renewed is artistic efforts in 1997, when he was introduced to the Internet. He was compelled to start a website featuring Spanish-language poetry, and has since published 3,600 sonnets and other poems, compiled into 31 volumes.
“He was very popular in Latin America and Spain,” Andrew Alvarez said, adding that some of his fathers sonnets had been performed on-stage in his native country.
Francisco Alvarez visited Spain once a year, his son said, and was looking forward to attending a live performance of one of his sonnets in May.
A Rosary will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Oakdale Memorial Park, 1401 S. Grand Avenue in Glendora, Andrew Alvarez said. A Mass is to follow at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Dorothy Catholic Church, 241 S. Valley Center Ave.

PHOTO of Francisco Alvarez riding his bicycle in France courtesy of the Alvarez family.

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Elderly Glendora man struck by car while riding bicycle dies from injuries

GLENDORA — An elderly Glendora man struck by a car while riding his bike Monday has died from his injuries, officials confirmed Friday.
Francisco Alvarez, 78, died Wednesday afternoon at a hospital following Monday’s collision at Foothill Boulevard and Elwood Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Joe Bale said. He was initially described by police as 79 years old.
Alvarez was riding his bicycle about 2:30 p.m. when he was struck and fatally injured by a sedan being driven by an 86-year-old Glendora man, Glendora police officials said.
Alvarez was heading west on Foothill Boulevard and the sedan was heading east just prior to the impact, Glendora police Lt. Matt Williams said. The car then made a left turn when it collided with the bicyclist.
Police officers found the Alvarez had no pule and was not breathing when they arrived on scene, but managed to resuscitate the man before he was rushed to a hospital, where he clung to life for two days, officials said.
The cause of the collision remained under investigation, authorities said, however the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, and nothing criminal was initially suspected.

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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.

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


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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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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