Firefighters hold line against southern California wildfire

LOS ANGELES Sat Jan 18, 2014 4:09pm EST

1 of 20. An air tanker makes waters drops as firefighters battle a fast-moving California wildfire, so-called the 'Colby Fire', in the hills of Glendora January 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Gene Blevins

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Firefighters sought to prevent a wildfire in the foothills near Los Angeles from flaring up on Saturday, as they put out embers from a blaze that has destroyed five homes, officials said.

The so-called Colby Fire, which officials said started from a campfire early on Thursday, has blackened nearly 1,900 acres of drought-parched chaparral and is 30 percent contained, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Robert Brady.

That was the same level of containment firefighters reported on Friday, but officials were optimistic they were gaining the upper hand on the blaze centered in the San Gabriel Mountains, on territory that is part of the Angeles National Forest.

"It's not spreading anymore," Brady said.

More than 1,100 firefighters, backed by four water-dropping airplanes and three helicopters, are battling the blaze, officials said.

Hot, dry Santa Ana winds from interior deserts fanned the flames when it broke out on Thursday, but the next day, the winds subsided and the fire barely grew in size.

On Saturday, the winds were expected to be even tamer, authorities said on their Incident Information System website.

The fire prompted some 3,500 residents in parts of Glendora and neighboring Azusa northeast of Los Angeles to vacate their homes on the order of authorities.

By Friday morning, some 2,800 evacuees had been allowed to return home. Some 200 to 300 homes in an Azusa neighborhood remained under mandatory evacuation orders, according to U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Sherry Rollman.

The fire has destroyed five homes and damaged 17, Brady said. Three firefighters, including one who was hospitalized with serious burns, and two civilians with minor injuries have been hurt, he said.

The blaze broke out when three men were building a campfire and used paper to feed the flames, officials said. Bail was set at $500,000 for each of the men, who were jailed on Thursday on suspicion of recklessly starting the fire.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Ian Simpson, G Crosse)

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